Jose Mourinho has admitted that he made a mistake in ostracising Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a considerable portion of last season at Manchester United.
The Armenian became Mourinho’s third signing as United boss last July, arriving for a fee of £27m, but he wasn’t handed a place in the starting XI to begin with. An impressive cameo at the KC Stadium led to a place in the starting lineup against Manchester City, only to endure a shocking 45 minutes before being hooked off at half time with a hamstring injury. Nearly three months elapsed before he was handed another start, against Feyenoord in late November, and he dazzled with an enterprising display on the ball as United claimed a 4-0 win.
Since then, he has been an important aspect of Mourinho’s set-up, claiming crucial goals against Saint Etienne, FC Rostov, Anderlect and, of course, Ajax during United’s triumphant Europa League campaign. And he has made a fierce start to the new season, featuring at No.10 and claiming four assists in just two Premier League games (he only managed one last year). With Nemanja Matic breaking through the lines and Romelu Lukaku creating space in behind, the 28-year-old suddenly has new dimensions through which to cause damage this year and it could be a sight to behold.
And Mourinho, when asked about Mkhitaryan’s blistering start to the season, admitted that he initially struggled to understand the Armenian’s approach and include him within his plans during the early stages of the 2016/17 campaign.
“I think Henrikh understands me, and to be honest, I understand him,” he said. “In the beginning of last season if he understands me better, he would have started better.”
“But at the same time, if I understood him better, I would probably have helped him in a faster way than I did. But we spent our time together, working together, learning each other.
“The second part of last season was good for him and I believe with his talent that this season is going to be even better.”