Manchester United had to work hard to qualify for the last eight of the FA Cup, but they managed to defeat Blackburn Rovers. As a result, Jose Mourinho’s side remain in four competitions, underlining the quality that the Red Devils manager has to call upon in his squad. He made changes to his starting eleven once again and those selected stepped up and performed. If the club finishes the season in the top four, with a trophy or two, that will represent a good first season for the Portuguese manager.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan took his time to make his mark in Manchester, but he is now beginning to emerge as one of the side’s most important players. He had started his career on the right wing at Old Trafford. However, his role in the team has now changed, with Mourinho choosing to use him in the number ten position. It allows him to have a bigger influence on the game and there has been a clear improvement in the team’s attacking play. He starred against Blackburn, but there are still some concerns with his game.
His major contribution to the game was the assist for the first goal. He received the ball around the halfway line and displayed his excellent vision to pick out a perfectly weighted through ball to Marcus Rashford, who slotted past Jason Steele. It was an excellent piece of creativity and it is that extra layer of quality that separated the two teams on Sunday. During the match, he was always looking to make positive passes and he was reliable in possession. He completed 86% of his attempted passes and considering he looks to create positive openings, that is an impressive stat.
The central role provides the Armenian international with creative freedom and he often looks to run with the ball. His experience on the wing has helped him hone his dribbling ability and that is his most dangerous weapon that he can deploy in the number ten role. Mkhitaryan completed four dribbles during the match and he was always looking to make something happen for his team. The most impressive part of Mkhitaryan’s game is that he doesn’t let things affect him too much. If he fails to make a pass, he dusts himself down and goes again. That is an impressive trait and a major reason for why he has turned it around at Old Trafford.
Another vital characteristic that every player in a Jose Mourinho side must have is the ability to work hard off the ball. The Manchester United manager demands it and Mkhitaryan has adapted his game to suit what the team needs. During the match, the Armenian international completed both of his attempted tackles and he worked tirelessly for his team. This is even more impressive considering the opposition. It would have been easy for him to put less effort in, but Mkhitaryan approached the game in a professional manner and that will have earned him more credit with his manager.
The slight change in role for Mkhitaryan didn’t have an immediate impact, but he is growing into it and he deserves a lot of credit for this performance. Although the opposition wasn’t the strongest, Mkhitaryan raised his game and he is beginning to emerge as one of the best players in this Manchester United team. He is always looking to play a positive forward pass and he provides a huge attacking threat. If he continues to perform at this level, he will have a big part to play as Manchester United strive to finish the season strongly.
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