After an indifferent season for Manchester United, the club will be looking to build for a stronger league showing and potentially a Champions League assault after a disappointing 6th place finish, which was somewhat saved with a Europa League triumph. One player who will be hoping to use his first season in England as a stepping stone will be Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The “midfield Armenian,” as chanted by the United fans at Old Trafford, arrived with a reputation and a major buzz. The man from Borussia Dortmund had a stunning 2015/16 season in the Bundesliga winning the player of the year and netting 23 goals in all competitions in the process. A stunning return for an attacking midfielder and his exploits led to Jose Mourinho recruiting him for a fee reportedly just shy of £27million.
His numbers were there for all to see and during his time in Germany, Mkhitaryan had built a reputation as a world-class player, with many thought to be keen on recruiting him both before and during his spell with Dortmund.
The anticipation around Old Trafford for the new season was huge after their summer transfer window, containing additions like Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as bringing in Mkhitaryan. However, the fans at United had to wait patiently to be wowed by the abilities of the man from Armenia.
Before November Mkhitaryan had only started one game for Manchester United which left many wondering why he was so out of touch with the United first team. Had he fallen out with Mourinho? Or was he simply unhappy in England? The boss himself explained that it was simply a case of adapting to the Premier League and achieving the fitness levels required, but still, it left a big question mark on whether his career at United was over before it had begun.
However, after starts against both Feyenoord in the Europa League and West Ham in the EFL Cup, he showcased his undoubted talent and his fortunes turned around as he began to take his expected place in the United first team.
After scoring at Home Tottenham in the Premier League in early December, Mkhitaryan really did start to motor along and began to be seen by the United fans as one of their best players, which is hard to argue against given his pedigree. He ended the season with a very respectable 11 goals in all competitions and also notched 5 assists. You can almost guarantee that now the attacking midfield man has cut his teeth in the Premier League he will be looking to kick on and make the upcoming season even better, for both the club and himself personally.
Whether Mkhitaryan can replicate the same kind of figures he did for Dortmund remains to be seen, it will, of course, be much more difficult for him to do so but should he get anywhere near he will no doubt be seen as one of the best players in the league.
It’s expected that he will continue to be a pivotal part of Mourinho’s set up next season regardless of any impending arrivals at Old Trafford. In fact with the incoming Romelu Lukaku from Everton, Mkhitaryan may well thrive from playing behind such a clinical young striker. Couple this with the expectation that Pogba will improve even more from last season and it could be that United find themselves with a deadly attacking force next season. Mkhitaryan has all the tools necessary to become a linchpin in this side, especially if he is deployed in his suggested favoured number 10 role.
The new season is drawing ever closer and most of the top Premier League sides are expecting to improve from last season with newcomers arriving and other players coming of age. Manchester United are no different and their fan favourite Mkhitaryan will have his eye on lighting up Old Trafford more than ever.