Henrikh Mkhitaryan scratched his name into Old Trafford folklore with a stunning ‘scorpion’ kick goal, that left the United faithful in awe, as United secured three points against Sunderland on Boxing Day. An impressive feat for a man that has only been at the club six months but his knowledge of the club dates much further back than that. He told the official Manchester United website which United players he watched growing up. When asked ‘Which United player from the past did you most enjoy watching?’, the Armenian replied;
“I started watching United at the time when Eric Cantona was in the team, and I loved watching him play. Andrei Kanchelskis was another who I’d keep an eye out for – as he was a Russian player I found that very interesting. But, in terms of a United idol, that would have to be Sir Alex Ferguson.”
No doubt ‘King Eric’ will have caught the Armenian’s eye as he was a catalyst for United under Sir Alex during the 90’s. Andrei Kanchelskis was seen as a key part of Sir Alex’s team and established himself as a tricky, dynamic winger during the 90’s, and many United fans will feel Mkhitaryan is a similar player in that respect; a wide man who can dribble past people with ease. It’s no surprise that Sir Alex Ferguson is Mkhitaryan’s United idol because whenever Manchester United is mentioned, you immediately associate the club with Sir Alex. Many players, no doubt including Mkhitaryan, would have relished the opportunity to play for the great man. Moving on, Mkhitaryan says that his footballing idol growing up was Zinedine Zidane;
“Not just for his vision on the pitch but for the fact he was such a leader. He was always talking to his teammates and helping them.”
There’s no surprise here as ‘Zizou’ is considered not just one of the greats of the modern era, but one of the greatest of all time. If Mkhitaryan could lead United to as many trophies as Zidane did for Real Madrid, then he would no doubt be considered of one the United greats. The United wide man claims he doesn’t have any superstitions before a game;
“No, I don’t. I used to do certain things before a game when I was younger but, as I got older, I realised that everything I needed to perform as a footballer was in my head.”
This attitude seems to be a sensible one. Many footballers seemed to get worked up about which sock is higher up their leg, which way to tie their boot laces and which wrist to put tape on. Many people consider superstitions a form of fear and a fear of losing if they don’t tuck their shirt in. I think it’s all a mentality thing.
The Armenian says the goal he has celebrated the most was a last-gasp winner for the Armenian U21 team, and it was the most emotion he has ever felt on a football pitch. As a young fan, I remember David Beckham score that free kick against Greece and remembering thinking, ‘what a feeling that must be, to score a last-minute goal for your country’. So in that sense, I can relate to why this would be Mkhitaryan’s most celebrated goal. Apart from representing your country and perhaps winning the World Cup, surely scoring a last-minute winner for your country has got to be the pinnacle. Finally, Mkhitaryan was asked which was the best goal he has ever scored. The midfielder cheekily responded;
“I couldn’t answer that one, as I’ve scored a lot [laughs]. Hopefully, there are a lot more goals to come for me at United.”
I think we all know what the best goal he scored is now, though! In all seriousness, the goal on Monday will be up there with the most iconic goals ever seen at Old Trafford. Rooney’s bicycle kick against Manchester City, Robin van Persie’s volley against Aston Villa to wrap up the 20th league title, Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick against Portsmouth, are just one hat spring to mind of recent memory, and this one will be up there. Yes, it was offside, but as all coaches at a Sunday league level say, “play to the whistle” and Mkhitaryan did just that. The skill and technique to pull this off would have been something Marco van Basten would be proud of.
For a man that seemed to have been frozen out at the start of the season and even doubts about his future at the club, it has been a remarkable turnaround. The Armenian magician is turning out to be a key cog in this team, and if United want top four at the end of the season, no doubt Mkhitaryan will play a part.