Monday 29 May 2017

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho finally seeing 'other things' from Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (C) celebrates with team mates Ander Herrera (21) and Juan Mata (8) as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (C) celebrates with team mates Ander Herrera (21) and Juan Mata (8) as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium

Miguel Delaney

Jose Mourinho has said that Henrikh Mkhitaryan is finally showing “other things” the manager wants to see beyond the “magic”, as he claimed he initially left the playmaker out of the Manchester United side to “protect” him.

The Armenian was moved to the main number-10 role in the middle of the side’s ultimately easy 3-0 win away to Leicester City, and proved crucial, putting in a sparkling display as he scored the first goal and assisted Juan Mata’s second-half clincher.

Mkhitaryan was arguably the most high-profile of a number of players - including Anthony Martial - that the Portuguese has conspicuously sidelined in his first season at Old Trafford, and his comments could be seen as a message to them as much as an explanation for Mkhitaryan’s resurgence.

“Sometimes, the best way to protect the players is not to play them,” Mourinho said. “I think in your chair, your perspective is always … if a player is not playing, the manager is, I cannot say the word, I have to find a different word … the manager is disturbing him but it's not true.

“Sometimes we don't play players and we protect them and Mkhi [Mkhitaryan] was one of these players. He was being protected. And he was adapting.

“And I could see not just what you see – because you see the magic things he can do on the pitch – but I also see other things that I want to see and Mkhi is playing really well.”

Of the decision to put Mkhitaryan in the centre, Mourinho claimed he realised he needed to give his side more attacking freedom.

“We start with two lines of four that gave us great stability defensively. Our wingers were deeper, closer to the central midfielders. We were in control, the block was a bit lower.

“We didn't want to give them any space behind, especially when we saw [Jamie] Vardy, [Ahmed] Musa, [Riyad] Mahrez, [Shinji] Okazaki. No [Islam] Slimani, no [Leonardo] Ulloh.

“The game has completely different perspective and we did that very, very well but we lacked a little bit of creativity by playing this way. Normally, our wingers are closer to the striker.

“We have more movement behind the striker and then we decide to change and yes, we improve but then its the goal that changed the story of the game.”

Independent News Service

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