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Mourinho has been protecting Mkhitaryan; When will he come good?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was signed by Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho in a £26 million move from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in the summer, being the third signing of the summer in which had already seen Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sign for United, with Paul Pogba completing the quartet with his move later in the summer. Mkhitaryan became the first Armenian to play for United, which is an achievement, but right now, that means nothing, as the player is just not getting in the matchday squad, which is starting to ask many questions. Mourinho passed comment about Mkhitaryan after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal when asked if the Armenian was any closer to playing for the club with his last appearance in the 2-1 defeat to Fenerbahçe at the start of the month. Mourinho, reported by the official Manchester United website, said:

“Yes. I told him today [Saturday] that he is going to be involved in the game against Feyenoord. He is trying. Obviously he is not happy but he is transforming his frustration in a good way, which is to close the mouth, work hard and try to adapt.

“I told him ‘this was not the game for you’ because I don’t think he needs 10 or 20 minutes from the bench. I said ‘I think you need a good game and you need to either start or, if not, to come for the second half’. He needs less pressure and better conditions for him to express his qualities.”

The fact that Mkhitaryan was the top assist maker in the Bundesliga last season, also winning the Player of the Season, and going to the shadow of a figure he seems to have become at United, is worrying, but Moutinho does not seem to be as worried as the rest of the supporters, even the player himself seems calm by the situating that he is facing. The transition from one league to another is always going to be difficult, and for some, it can be much worse to deal with. Some players make that transition like a duck to water, other need time. Mkhitaryan needed two years to adapt to the Bundesliga, turning into one of the brightest prospects in the league, so for that reason, he deserves the time to settle and adapt at United, I reckon it could be worth it, as long as it does not take a number of years. Mourinho seems to know and trust what he is doing, something he is qualified to do. Football in real life is nothing like the various computer games we can all play.

Mkhitaryan will play against Feyenoord at Old Trafford on Thursday night, according to Mourinho, but whether he starts or is a substitute remains to be seen. I would like to see him start, which would allow him some time to show his skills, adapt to his teammates, which is not something he has done all that often; his last appearance was against Fenerbahçe three weeks ago, before that it would be the Manchester derby at Old Trafford back in September. Mkhitaryan deserves the time on the pitch to prove himself, but if he does not look great on the ball and makes mistakes, the same fas who want to see him involved will criticise and ridicule the player, which is hardly fair. United fans have turned into a fickle bunch over the past three years, championing a player one moment, then carving his chest with daggers the next, which might seem fair in their minds, but is it really. Speaking via the official Manchester United website late on Tuesday evening, comments from Mourinho were released regarding the Armenian being closer to playing, saying:

“Yes. I told him today [Saturday] that he is going to be involved in the game against Feyenoord. He is trying. Obviously he is not happy but he is transforming his frustration in a good way, which is to close the mouth, work hard and try to adapt.

“I told him ‘this was not the game for you’ because I don’t think he needs 10 or 20 minutes from the bench. I said ‘I think you need a good game and you need to either start or, if not, to come for the second half’. He needs less pressure and better conditions for him to express his qualities.”

Hopefully Mkhitaryan will take his chance. He is training with his teammates on a daily basis, which will help and Mourinho and his coaches are seeing what he does in training, so he must be doing well if he is ready to play in the game, which is obviously less pressured than the match against Arsenal at the weekend for instance. Mkhitaryan did not do well in September’s derby, so putting him under the same pressure at this stage of the season would probably not work. One thing is for certain, Mkhitaryan is a Manchester United player and when he is ready to offer his full potential to the team, which is a lot, the squad will benefit from it. He’s looked good in glimpses so far, which is a positive sign and gathering some confidence for United against Feyenoord, then possible playing in one of both of the matches against West Ham United in the Premier League and the EFL Cup could be great for the Armenian, who is the last of four signings in the summer to find his feet at the club. I am sure the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been helping their teammate settle in, and will continue to do so, along with the rest of the team and the manager.

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