- Premier League
- EFL Championship
- Other Top Clubs
- Scout Reports
When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was brought to Old Trafford, Manchester United fans rejoiced at the thought of having a quality designated No.10. Unfortunately for the fans and the player, the outcome has been entirely different and frustrating, to say the least.
Jose Mourinho may have had a plan to deal with Eden Hazard against Chelsea. It was clear that Eric Bailly was tasked with marking him throughout the game. This system of marking Hazard worked back in April too, when Ander Herrera was tasked with the job. However, with Bailly, it did not work. In fact, the Blues’ winning goal came, as Bailly was out of position when he tracked Hazard’s movement, leaving Alvaro Morata free in the penalty area to head past David De Gea. Knowingly or unknowingly, Hazard played a vital role for Chelsea in terms of creativity. United, however, had no such player.
Mkhitaryan was tasked with linking Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford with the rest of the team but he struggled so badly that he was removed after an hour. Marouane Fellaini was sent on in his place and United employed a more direct tactic as they searched for an equaliser. Fellaini did inject some fresh life into United’s attack but the player could not make a solid impact, which is fair enough since he was not fully fit. But is there really any excuse for Mkhitaryan?
In 86 minutes, Hazard had 72 touches, 4 dribbles, 3 shots and one key pass; Mkhitaryan managed merely 28 touches, one dribble, no shots and no key passes during his 62-minute stay. Of course, one might argue that players have bad days but Mkhitaryan has been having too many bad days ever since he joined the club.
Be it against other top-six clubs like Liverpool or even Tottenham, Mkhitaryan continues to do nothing. It suggests that either United are not getting the ball to the Armenian or that he is not making himself available to receive it. Either way, it is a worrying factor since it is truly costing United some crucial points.
Yet, Mkhitaryan seems to have padded the stats with the 5 assists he provided in United’s first 3 games – against sides like West Ham and Swansea City. He has now gone 8 games without a single assist. The only other natural No. 10 in Mourinho’s squad is Juan Mata, but the Spaniard wasn’t even on the bench against Chelsea.
Fellaini can play there, but that would alter United’s style of play. Pogba could come straight back into the team when he recovers from his injury but the Frenchman prefers to play a little deeper. Making Mkhitaryan his No. 10 was one of Mourinho’s biggest decisions of the summer. However, at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, it did not work – just like it didn’t work in their previous matches.
While Mourinho made several plans to neutralise the threat of Hazard, there was nothing during the game to suggest Antonio Conte had given Mkhitaryan the same thought. That itself shows how he has a reputation for doing nothing, and it is truly a worrisome prospect for United.