Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has insisted that the Armenian requires more time to adapt to the English Premier League. In light of his current situation, did Mkhitaryan make a mistake in snubbing Arsenal for United?
Reports in the English media have claimed that the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder made the decision to join Manchester United over Arsenal because he though he was not needed by Arsene Wenger. The Daily Mail claimed that the Red Devils paid up to £7m more to beat the Gunners to his signature.
Did the Armenian do the right thing by snubbing Arsenal?
Mkhitaryan has been publicly criticised by Jose Mourinho and has barely featured for Manchester United. Signed for £26 million, the attacker was expected to immediately slot into the side and inject some much needed creativity.
He has barely featured though, after first struggling with an injury and now, according to Mourinho, working on his fitness and adapting to English football.
Speaking to Manchester United’s official website, Mourinho said, “He is not injured. The realities are often different, particularly in terms of the competitiveness. It doesn’t matter who you are against, you have to play at the highest level otherwise you will not be able to do it. Micki needs time to become the top player he knows he can be.”
These comments have bewildered many fans, as the tried and tested method for a player to adapt — particularly after coming from a foreign league — is to get minutes with the first team. There is no doubt that Mkhitaryan is a very talented player, but sharpness in games only comes from playing actual games.
It is not just fans who are confused by Mkhitaryan’s continued absence from the side; the president of the Armenian FA claims that Mkhitaryan himself has no idea what is going on. Ruben Hayrapetyan is quoted by the Metro as saying: “I cannot know what the Manchester manager is thinking about. I have talked with Mkhitaryan, he also doesn’t know what Jose Mourinho is thinking. Mkhitaryan trains and is in good shape but no one knows the reason.”
Mkhitaryan has started just one Premier League game and was omitted from United’s squad to play Manchester City in the League Cup last week. The playmaker also had a relatively slow start to his career at Dortmund, but the fact that he didn’t even feature in midweek is telling.
EFL Cup games are the perfect opportunity to break in new players and youngsters, as evidenced by Pep Guardiola’s team selection on the night. Mourinho’s claims that the Armenian needs time to adapt to the faster pace and physicality of the English game seem out of sync with his treatment of the midfielder.
The fact that Mkhitaryan himself is unsure as to why he is not playing only makes the situation more bizarre. Clearly the midfielder feels that he is fit and ready to start gaining some much needed minutes on the field, but it remains unclear why Mourinho refuses to play him.
If Mkhitaryan had chosen the Gunners this summer, would he have featured? The Gunners have been in fine form, having gone unbeaten for 14 matches this season. This contrasts starkly with United’s form, which has seen them drop down the table to 8th place; they are already 8 points behind the league leaders.
Mkhitaryan would have fit perfectly into this Arsenal side, with their quick passing and build-up play perfectly suited to the midfielder’s strengths. There is the fact that Mesut Ozil is never going to be dropped from this team, and the German midfielder plays a similar role to the Armenian. Both can also play on the wing though, and with the Gunners favouring a fluid front line in which players often exchange positions, it is hard to see why Mkhitaryan would not have fit in.
It is still early in the season though, and there is ample time for Mkhitaryan to make an impact on this United side. Neutrals will be forgiven, however, for wishing that he had chosen London instead of Manchester in the summer.