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28th Oct 2017

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s performance criticised despite Manchester United win

"Just an intelligent Lingard"

Robert Redmond

It’s probably time to start scheduling matches involving Jose Mourinho against a top six team at 3pm of a Saturday.

Two weeks ago, the lunchtime kick-off saw Manchester United and Liverpool play out a dull, non-event at Anfield, a contest completely devoid of any incident or attacking from intent from the away team. On Saturday, Mourinho’s team hosted Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, and once again it was an underwhelming watch. The fixture became bogged down for long periods of scrappy play and there were few chances for either side.

Of course, on both occasions there were two teams involved, and neither Liverpool or Spurs can feel as though they did enough to win against United. But, against Spurs, once again Mourinho chose to nullify the threat of the opposition, rather than take the initiative. United mirrored Spurs’ back three, and a stalemate felt inevitable from early in the match, despite both Dele Alli and Romelu Lukaku coming close late on.

Then, with nine minutes left on the clock, David de Gea kicked the ball long towards Lukaku, the striker flicked it into the path of Anthony Martial, Eric Dier couldn’t get across, and the French forward scored with a scruffy shot.

It was a goal straight from the Tony Pulis’ school of football, and one that will gloss over another questionable performance by Mourinho’s team. A goal from a long punt and a defensive error will be dressed up as a “Mourinho masterclass.” However, the United manager and supporters won’t care how the victory came, and will celebrate cementing their place behind Manchester City in the Premier League table.

In truth, very few United forward players performed well. So, it’s probably unfair to single out one player, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan really struggled. The Armenian was substituted after 65 minutes for Jesse Lingard and it won’t be a surprise to see him sit out a few games on the evidence of Saturday’s performance.

Mkhitaryan created United’s only chance of the first-half, but was sloppy in performance and failed to make an impact.

Of the 34 passes he attempted, just 23 were successful, and just over half of his passes in the opposition half were successful. The frantic, disjointed nature of the game didn’t lend itself to Mkhitaryan’s skillset and the Armenian was unable to recapture his early season form. He has five assists already this season, but none since United’s win over Leicester City two months ago. His only goal of the season came against Everton in September.

Mkhitaryan is a very good player, but he is definitely out of form. Many United fans appear to feel it’s time to give someone else a run in the first-team for a while.

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