In the past couple of weeks, Manchester United and Manchester city plundered Dortmund in search of a solution to their creative midfield deficiencies. Their search culminated in both clubs shelling out a combined fee of not less than £50 million for two of Dortmund’s midfield maestros in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gündogan.
Both midfielders have shown their class and quality at Dortmund, playing together in the Bundesliga, but are set to become arch rivals after making the switch to two separate Manchester clubs who have no love lost for each other.
Pep Guardiola upon arriving at Manchester City made Ilkay Gündogan his first signing for the club. The blues coughed out £20million for the German international who arrived Manchester with an injury. Gündogan, will however, fit perfectly into Guardiola’s high pressing style giving the midfielder’s impressive ball retention ability as well as passing and dribbling skill.
Guardiola’s rival, José Mourinho also followed the path of the former Bayern manager by signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Dortmund for a reported £30million. Mourinho will look to Mkhitaryan as a step up from United’s attacking midfield set-up that consists the likes of Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata.
Both midfielders are fast, great on the ball and have an avid eye for goal. However, which Manchester team is most likely to reap the full benefits of the talent they just paid so much money for?
I will take a critical assessment of both players before delivering my verdict on the subject.
The 25-year-old German midfielder comes in with a whole lot of quality and would most certainly be guaranteed a first team slot in Pep Guardiola’s set-up. Gündogan was a regular at BVB even though his appearances was constantly being limited by various nibbling injuries.
The new Manchester city midfielder was, however, able to churn in 25 appearances in the Bundesliga last season, scoring a single goal but delivering 3 assists and creating 26 chances. In all, Gündogan had a pass accuracy of 88% (69% forward) with 1727 completed passes.
Ilkay Gündogan adapted well to Thomas Tuchel’s playing style at Dortmund and showed everyone why he is among one of the best passers of the ball in Europe. Gündogan can definitely strike a chord with Guardiola and Manchester city but that is left to be seen. The midfielder is expected to be fit and ready for his City debut by September.
The Armenia international can really be a torment to oppositions when in his elements. Coming into Manchester United to work with the controversial José Mourinho the hopes of Manchester United fans who have hungered for a midfield dynamo who can provide fluid passing, start attacks, create chances, run in-behind and score goals will be piled heavily on the former Bundesliga winner.
Mkhitaryan had long been rumoured to be headed away from Dortmund after a string of stellar performances and choosing not to renew his contract at the end of last season, a decision which kept European top clubs on red alert for the opportunity to sign on the fast-paced attacking midfielder. Coming on the backdrop of a season where Mkhitaryan shone like a million stars in the Bundesliga. The 27-year old midfielder scored 10 goals, created 78 chances and provided some 15 assists for the yellow submarines last term. His eye-catching performances led to Mkhitaryan being voted Bundesliga’s players player of the year. It is left to be seen how Mourinho chooses to deploy the Armenia all-time top scorer but one unquestionable fact is the quality and dynamism that Mkhitaryan will bring to the club attacking wise.
Both midfielders are simply world class, and it would be great to watch them in the premier league. However, I expect Mkhitaryan to hit the ground running for Man united long before Gündogan recovers enough to get inculcated into the City set-up and make any meaningful contribution for Guardiola’s men. Having Gündogan and Mkhitaryan fit and 100% for their respective club sides, I will still expect to see more positive contributions going forward as well as all round play from the Armenian than from the injury prone Gündogan. Manchester United definitely got a better deal.