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EPL 2016/17: Jose Mourinho clarifies why Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been absent

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has struggled for form and fitness since joining Manchester United.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Manchester United (R) takes the ball past Aleksander Kolorov of Manchester City (L) during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Mkhitaryan hasn’t played since the derby defeat to City in the Premier League

Manchester United fans could be forgiven for being excited when the signing of Borussia Dortmund’s playmaker supreme, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was announced. He was someone who was supposed to take them to the next level. After all, this is a player who finished last season with a phenomenal number of goals and assists; 23 goals and 32 assists to be precise.

Even though numbers don’t exactly translate linearly from one league to the other, a contribution of such proportion in a team of Dortmund’s ilk cannot be simply ignored.

That being said, it has been to the surprise of many that he has hardly appeared for the first team this season at all. In fact, he didn’t even make the match-day squad in the derby against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

His last appearance, coincidentally, the derby against Manchester City in the EPL in September, saw him hauled off at half time. There were rumors swirling around that all was not right between Mourinho and his £30 million signing, and this only intensified with each subsequent match.

Also read: From Bundesliga Player of the Year to relative anonymity - What's gone wrong for Henrikh Mkhitaryan?

However, Mourinho, in his latest press conference has now cleared the air regarding the playmaker’s situation, suggesting that he needs time to adapt to English football and backed him to become a “top player” for the Red Devils.

He confirmed that Mkhitaryan is no longer injured, is training with the team ‘100%’ and is working hard on his fitness behind the scenes. To paraphrase Mourinho, he explains further on how just not being injured isn’t the same as actually being match-fit and capable of competing and withstanding the rigors of the Premier League.

Asked if it takes longer for some players to adapt to the English game, Mourinho said, “I think so, yes. Some players find it very easy whereas others need more time. They need to feel the intensity, the aggression, the game without the ball and the competitiveness.”

Similar scenario to Willian and Angel Di Maria

Mourinho expressed his confidence in Mkhitaryan, pushing forward his point by giving the examples of 2 of his former players at Chelsea and Real Madrid who required time to blossom in their new surroundings.

“I don’t like to speak about players from other clubs because I don’t want to be misinterpreted, but I don’t think he’ll mind. A player who had a problem when I first arrived was Willian. He went through a process and then, after a few months, he became a top player. Then, when we won the championship, he has phenomenal and still is. That is just an example,” the Portuguese explained.

“Similarly, Di Maria had to learn a lot about his game when he came into Madrid from Portugal. Sometimes this is what happens. It happens with defenders, but it is often easier for them to adapt than attackers. Some go straight to success and others it takes more time,” he added.

Mourinho clarified the issue further by explaining that in the case of Mkhitaryan, the bedding in process was interrupted by injury, thus meaning he had to go through the entire process of being match-fit and then having the competitive level to actually contribute.

Jose continued, “We believe him and sooner or later, there will be no problem.”

So, expect Mkhitaryan back in a United shirt banging in the goals and assists, sooner rather than later.


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