Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan says his desire to succeed stems from the tragic death of his father and claims that he is “looking down from the sky” on him. The Armenian captain was Jose Mourinho’s third signing of the summer following his move from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund earlier this month. Mkhitaryan’s father, Hamlet, was also a professional footballer – plying his trade mostly in his native Armenia and the French lower leagues – sadly passed away from a brain tumour aged just 33 when Henrikh was only seven years old.
“He was my drive, so he was my motivation because when I was young he was playing football professionally and I was always dreaming to go with him to the training ground. It was my dream to continue his work and to also be a football player.
“He was 33 years old, I was seven years old at the time so, yes, it is a pity but that’s life. The life continues and I hope he is proud looking at me from the sky so I try to do everything to make him proud.
“I’m sad because I think he could have helped me with his words and his support, but that’s life. I’m trying to do everything with my family members, my friends, who are watching me every day, every game, so they are trying to help me to say what I did wrong and what I did well and I try to improve myself.”
The former Dortmund player comes from a “football family”. His mother worked at the Football Federation of Armenia while his eldest sister works for UEFA. While he explained his father’s absence made him “grow up quicker”, he thanked his mother for taking on the role of both parents following their tragic loss.
“On one side, yes it made me grow up quicker. And on one side no because it is very difficult when you grow up without a father because in the family you don’t have a real man who can give you direction, discipline.
“In one case my mother was my mother and father, so I am thankful to her and I am thankful to all the people who were next to me at the time in a hard moment so the life continues and I am trying to learn something new from the people and getting into football. My mother worked in Armenia Football Federation and my sister, she works for Uefa, so we are a football family.
“I watched many times [footage of him] when I was young but now the football changes a lot so it is not necessary to watch a game [to learn from him]. You can watch just to remember the way he played, to remember that he was judging himself on the pitch but watching the game saying: ‘You can learn something new’ [is not necessary] because now the football has become more faster, more quicker, more stronger, so they’re just memories.”
The 27-year-old completed his move to Old Trafford earlier this month following a brilliant season where he was crowned the Bundesliga Player of the Season. Mkhitaryan contributed to 26 goals (11 goals, 15 assists) in the German top-flight as Dortmund finished runners-up to Bayern Munich. His 11 goals matched that of United’s top scorer in the Premier League (Anthony Martial) whilst registering a whopping nine more assists than any other United player last term (Rooney with six). Not bad for a player who predominantly spent last season playing as a winger. When asked where he prefers to play, he replied: “To be honest, it doesn’t matter,” and it’s always been a dream of his to play in the Premier League.
“I like to play attacking, like a winger, or an attacking midfielder, so it depends on the coach, where he’s looking at me for which position.
“It’s always [been] my dream to play Premier League. And finally I could fulfill my wish, my dream, and I am very happy to wear this shirt. United’s one of the teams I was supporting when I was a child – I was always proud of the way they were playing and because Manchester United was always a big club – so it’s a dream to play for this club, and first for me as well when I was a child I was dreaming to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“I never promise something, I always say that I will try. Because if you promise something and you don’t do you will always be under pressure, so that is why I’m trying to say I will do all my best and I will try to help Manchester because for me this is a new challenge and I like difficulties. I like to win the difficulties because when you win the difficulties it makes you stronger, so I’m trying to do everything to come up to a new level.
“It doesn’t matter if they buy me for, I don’t know, 38 million or 40 million, I am not guaranteed to play the games, so I am trying to do my best during the training to earn this place to play and then we will see because I don’t think I will play every game, depending on the tactical situation, depending on the opponent. But I will do everything to try and help the team.”
The 27-year-old scored his first goal for the Reds against his former side in the 4-1 defeat to Dortmund last week which turned out to be United’s only game on their tour of China following the cancellation of the game against neighbours Manchester City. United face Turkish side Galatasaray this weekend before Wayne Rooney’s testimonial at Old Trafford against Everton next week then the focus shifts to Wembley as Mourinho’s men look to lift the Community Shield for the 21st time against Premier League champions Leicester City next Sunday.