Manchester United are not short of attacking options and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata are just two of the players that can occupy any three of the attacking midfield positions in Jose Mourinho’s 4-3-2-1, but who suits Old Trafford outfit better?
Mkhitaryan arrived from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent summer transfer window, and the Armenian had a slow start to his United career, struggling with injury and fitness early on in the season. In his time at Dortmund, he was spectacular, with his final season at the German club seeing him score eleven goals and claim fifteen assists from an attacking midfield position.
The forward has been unable to recapture that same form at United, and in fifteen Premier League appearances, he has just three goals and one assist. That is not to say he has had many bad performances, however. Mkhitaryan is often the main driving force in midfield. Whether that be feeding through balls to his fellow attackers or beating his opposite number, the Armenian is always a threat.
His stats would perhaps be better if the finishing of his teammates improved, as has been a major issue with United this season, especially at home where they have created an abundance of chances but just can’t seem to score.
As for Juan Mata, once deemed surplus to requirements by Mourinho at Chelsea, his statistics are a little more impressive, with six goals and two assists in 21 appearances.
Of course, the Spaniard has had more time in the Premier League than his Armenian counterpart, and this is telling. Mata is able to shift the ball quickly and effectively whilst also finding himself in dangerous, goal-scoring positions. The speed and physicality of the England’s top division is something that the Spaniard has adapted to, and something Mkhitaryan will be hoping he can adjust to as well.
The ex-Chelsea man, wherever he plays, is always difficult to contain. He finds pockets of space, is comfortable picking the ball up in tight areas and can pick a pass and finish. Mata is also an asset from a dead ball situation with his excellent delivery from corners and free kicks.
Both players have fantastic qualities, and Mourinho must be grateful for having both. It will be interesting to see how Mkhitaryan develops in his time with United, and Juan Mata, having had many seasons in the Premier League, may just be the player to guide him.
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