Henrikh Mkhitaryan has vowed to stay and fight for his place at Manchester United, despite the false claims in the media this week claiming otherwise.
Several newspapers and media outlets have suggested that Mkhitaryan could be set to leave Old Trafford just months after his arrival in the summer, amid reports that Jose Mourinho was beginning to doubt his suitability for the English game.
But the Armenian international has always been aware of his role at the club and his absence from the team won’t have been a surprise. In the summer, he was quoted in the Manchester Evening News about his first season at Manchester United and even then he did not expect to be a guaranteed starter in Mourinho’s first eleven. His determination to prove his worth to the manager and his new teammates was evident, though.
“It doesn’t matter if they buy me for, I don’t know, £38million or £40m, 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.”
Now Mkhitaryan is fully fit and working hard to return to the team, with no intention of leaving the club in January.
Mkhitaryan’s absence from the first team since his half-time substitution against Manchester City more than a month ago, his first start for the club, has raised question marks surrounding the player’s future.
Negative press should be expected at Manchester United, especially after such a heavy defeat at the weekend. Despite the intensity of the rumours over the last few days, the belief at Old Trafford is that Mkhitaryan remains an important part of the first team squad. The only issue for the player now is his fitness.
Last week Mourinho was adamant that Mkhitaryan ‘has to work more to get the intensity and fitness to play at a high level’, suggesting that his lack of playing time is nothing more than a conditioning issue instead of the dramatic suggestion that he has lost faith in the player and he is ready to cut his losses on the man who scored 23 goals and provided 32 assists last season for Borussia Dortmund.
The issue surrounding Mkhitaryan has made headlines on more than one occasion this season. When he did not start the opening matches against Leicester City and Southampton, Mourinho addressed his attacking options, echoing Mkhitaryan’s own comments from earlier in the summer.
“Options. I went to the game against Leicester and I was reading the game and I thought we needed the speed of Jesse Lingard.
“And against Bournemouth, I thought they wanted to press really high, and a player like Mata coming inside could reach some spaces behind the lines of pressure and it could be very useful for us. And I decided to play Rooney both games in that position close to Zlatan and I didn’t start with Mikhi.
“Some managers when they buy players, when it is their decision to buy players, the first thing they think is to protect themselves and to protect their choices. The players they buy have to play all the time. I am not like this. Before me comes the team, and what I think is the best for the team.
“In those two matches, Mata and Lingard were the best options for the team, adapted to the reality of the Premier League so I made that decision.”
But while Mourinho was quick to explain that this was purely a footballing decision, he reassured the world that Mkhitaryan was an important part of his plans.
“But Mkhitaryan is a super football player and he will be given a lot of opportunities this season.”
Despite the consistent narrative from player and coach about his role and despite the thigh injury that kept him out of action for several weeks, rumours have persisted about Henrikh Mkhitaryan all season. The United manager fielded questions about him again last week before the Europa League tie against Fenerbahce, stating that it is ‘now time for him [Mkhitaryan] to go back to the levels we know that he can achieve’.
With Manchester United in a slump and desperate for some inspiration, there is no better time for Mkhitaryan to find those levels. On his day he is an exceptional footballer, one that can turn any game in a single moment. His brilliance will shine through at Old Trafford once he is given an opportunity. Perhaps this Manchester derby can be the stage on which he silences his doubters and shows the world he is deserving of his place at Manchester United.