Manchester United recorded a much needed victory against Tottenham, closing the gap on the side directly above them to only three points. They will be hoping that this is the start of a run of form that takes the team into the Champions League places, as that is where they ideally need to finish. Jose Mourinho needs to repair his reputation after a rough 18 months and will know the importance of being a success at Old Trafford. He has a lot of talent at his disposal and anything less than a top four finish will be seen as an underachievement.
The Manchester United boss was criticised for not using Henrikh Mkhitaryan earlier in the season, but the Armenian is beginning to establish himself as an important member of the first team. He was the man-of-the-match against Tottenham after scoring the winning goal in the first half and it was excellent to see him make a significant contribution in such a big game. The former Borussia Dortmund player has a lot to offer Manchester United and it is good to see him showing that on the pitch.
His goal was the talking point of the match as he timed his run behind the Tottenham defence and blasted the ball past Hugo Lloris. The Armenian is known for his creativity, but instead of squaring the ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he chose to shoot himself and that shows the confidence in his game at the moment. Mkhitaryan was very positive in his play and had three shots during the game. United are trying to get their identity back and the 27-year-old is the perfect player for them at the moment. He is exciting to watch and has a quality end product. The Armenian international is going to be key to the team’s chances this season and if he can maintain this level of performance, United are going to be dangerous in 2017.
Mkhitaryan showed his intelligent link up play on a number of occasions during the match. They needed a more creative winger and they now have that. Just minutes into the game, the former Dortmund attacker played an excellent through ball that cut open the opposition defence, which led to a good chance for Paul Pogba. Although his link up play was good at times, there was some inconsistency to it. He finished with only 68% pass completion and that needs to be significantly higher over the course of the season.
Jose Mourinho praised Mkhitaryan after the match as he showed everything that his manager wants to see. That included hard work defensively. The Portuguese manager has always demanded his wingers to track back and contribute to the defensive effort. Mkhitaryan did that on Sunday, as he completed three ball recoveries (one tackle and two interceptions). That will have impressed Mourinho even more than his goal. He still has work to do to improve this side of his game, but it is encouraging to see him adjusting to Mourinho’s style of play.
After such a good performance, it ended on a sour note as Mkhitaryan had to go off on a stretcher with an ankle injury. It comes at a bad time for both the player and the team. He was beginning to find his form and will be gutted if this injury keeps him out for a significant period of time. Meanwhile, he is influencing matches on a regular basis and Manchester United need him in their team if they are to move up the table. Hopefully he can be back on the pitch soon and get back to the level of performance that he showed against Tottenham.
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