My End Of Season Report on Manchester United.

My End Of Season Report on Manchester United.

After United lifted the UEFA Europa League trophy, instantly Mourinho’s first season at the helm was considered a huge success after he secured the club a return to the elite competition, the UEFA Champions League. At the start of the season, a return to Europe’s top competition was the target for Mourinho, but after a 6th placed finish, the Portuguese coach threw all his eggs in one basket and focused on prioritising the Europa League with just 3 Premier League games left. It was a gamble that paid off as goals from Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan swiftly saw off the threat of a youthful Ajax side in Stockholm.

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Pogba celebrates scoring United’s first goal against Ajax in the Europa League final.

It was a victory of pragmatism, and a performance which showed that Mourinho is merely focused on results rather than becoming football’s William Wordsworth. United soaked up pressure from Ajax’ attacks and killed them at vital moments, in a professional and swift manner. Now United have the luxury of playing Champions League next season, Mourinho will be aiming over the summer to take United to the next level… or even United’s Chief Executive Ed Woodward, seeing as Mourinho is on his summer break.

After an up and down Premier League season, United have a lot to work on if they have any dream of bringing the Premier League back to Old Trafford.

As a fantastic season has drawn to a close, this is my End of Season report on Manchester United:

What is your overall verdict on the Season, hit or miss?

Personally, I see this season as a hit simply because our main target at the start of the season has been reached, and that was to secure Champions League football. Certainly, we secured it through the back door but you gotta be in it to win it, and we did. The Premier League has been a hit and miss throughout, but I have always thought we were never going to challenge for the Premier League title as many predicted at the start of the season. This has been a season of merely, laying the foundations and Mourinho has done that with aplomb. We look a much better outfit in defence that under Van Gaal and Moyes, Mourinho has eradicated the silly and unnecessary mistakes; players such as Rojo, Bailly, Blind and Phil Jones have certainly raised their game due to the tactical pragmatism of Mourinho – a coach well known for his defensive mind-set and focus.

However, its our attack that needs work. We’ve played some scintillating football at times but our finishing has really let us down. Our inability to kill teams off in the final third probably was the main we didn’t finish as high as we would have wanted, and I’m sure Mourinho will be solely focusing on attending to that issue during the summer transfer window.

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United frailties in front of goal brought a huge dent to their top 4 ambitions.

What’s your highlight of the season?

Winning the Europa League. As simple as that. As a United fan, I don’t think I would have been able to cope without another season of Champions League football. Mourinho got the job done in Stockholm. It was nice seeing us lift a major trophy as well as the League Cup – another highlight considering the way in which we had to struggle against the pressures of Southampton – it is a trophy that has merely eluded us for so many years. At the end of the day, it is about winning trophies despite our disappointing league position – to see us lifting our third trophy in two years was a joy to behold. United is a club so richly blessed with Major Honours and it was good to carry on that tradition.

Also, the signing of elite players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I really do hope he stays next season), Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan showed that we could compete with the best financially even without the allure of Champions League football.

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What is your lowlight?

Our finishing. Diabolical. Frustrating. Disheartening. Imagine where would be if we would have won like 10 or 11 of those 15 games, we would have been up there fighting with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham for the League title, however, it wasn’t to be. It is a major problem we must address in this summers window.

Who’s your Player of the Season?

Ander Herrera. I was thinking Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Valencia, but then I thought the Spanish midfielder has been ever-present for us this season – Deserved winner of the Manchester United Player of the Season award too – a player who has been perfectly moulded into the Mourinho-type midfield destroyer. When Herrera joined the club 3 years ago, he was considered an attacking midfielder. Van Gaal couldn’t see no use of him in his starting XI, and his self-proclaimed “philosophy” suffered as a result – a philosophy so hell-bent on possession football and movement which required the abilities of Herrera, who is blessed with that midfield thrust and an eye for the extraordinary pass (just check his assist for Mkhitaryan against Tottenham and for Rashford against Chelsea). Only God knows why Van Gaal couldn’t realise his mesmeric abilities in the midfield. He has been called upon to change his style under Jose Mourinho and he has duly delivered. His passion, determination and fighting spirit on the pitch has been outstanding. Add in his passing abilities and he has turned into the perfect midfielder this season. Captain of United in the making? I wouldn’t put it past him.

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Herrera has flourished under the guidance of Mourinho this season.

Most Improved Player?

Marcos Rojo. Let me be honest, when Van Gaal bought him, I couldn’t see anything special but a rashness in his game that would get him in trouble every time he flies in for a tackle. I hardly knew him anyway, but under Mourinho this season, the Argentine has finally found his feat (well not literally, seeing as his season ended prematurely because of a bad knee injury). Under Mourinho’s guidance, Rojo has dominated the air, his opponents and the threat around with an assuredness and composure that was so far-fetched when he joined in 2014. I would have picked Antonio Valencia for this gong, but Rojo has impressed me the most.

Best Goal of the Season?

This Goal.

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Mkhitaryan’s ‘Scorpion’ goal against Sunderland.

 

Simply Amazing. Don’t care what Olivier Giroud thinks. Henrikh Mkhitaryan did it first.

What areas need to be strengthened for next term?

Definitely a Prolific Striker, a goal scoring winger, a defensive midfielder and probably a centre back too. Mourinho knows what he needs to do, who am I to comment?

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Antoine Griezmann is top of Mourinho’s transfer targets this summer.

 

If money was no object and you could sign any player in World Football, who would it be and how would they fit into your team?

Neymar. My favourite player in World Football. I really enjoy watching this guy play football, his ability to take on his marker with consummate ease is a sight to behold. We have been linked with him in the past couple of transfer windows. Although the interest seems far fetched, I would love to see him at Old Trafford sometime in the future. I don’t think he will become a one club man and stay at Barcelona for the rest of his career, I feel the Premier League needs someone with his extravagant abilities and I’m sure he would love to test himself in England too.

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Could we see Neymar at Old Trafford in future?

United still is the place to fulfil dreams and ambitions and Neymar will be the centre of those lofty ambitions. He hasn’t got that ‘main man’ tag at Barcelona because of Lionel Messi, so why not become the main man at Manchester United and become the best player in the world just like Cristiano Ronaldo did. Even winning the Ballon D’or.

There is no better place to achieve that than at Old Trafford.

What would represent a successful season next year?

Well, that does depend of whether Mourinho secures his top targets this summer, that is why I feel this summers window could be United’s biggest yet. If we do secure those targets for next season, then why not go far in the Champions League as well as winning the Premier League? Mourinho has won the League title at every club he has been at in his managerial career, and I am hugely confident he will carry on that trend during his time at Old Trafford. We won three trophies in an otherwise average season to be fair, with a team/squad that is not fully moulded into the Mourinho image. Imagine what we could next season if Mourinho successfully tunes his squad into the way he wants next season.

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This Summers Transfer Window could be United’s biggest ever.

There will be difficult obstacles in his way such as Pep Guardiola across the city at the Etihad, as well as Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Champions Chelsea all battling it out to win the Premier League next season. But you have to ‘beat the best to be the best’. Mourinho has been there, done that on many occasions in his decorated managerial career, who’s to say he can’t achieve another next season at Manchester United.

It promises to be another magnificent battle of the new and improved ‘Top 6’ next term. I for one cannot wait.

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Major Transfer Deals Most Likely to Happen This Summer. (Part 1)

Major Transfer Deals Most Likely to Happen This Summer. (Part 1)

As another exciting and dramatic Premier League season draws to a close, all eyes will be drawn to what will be an interesting spectacle in the Summer Transfer window. Yes, the football on the pitch will be over, but the action off it continues. Feast your eyes on what is likely to be the most captivating Summer window yet with clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, and the La Liga heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona sure to spend buck loads of cash.

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After a difficult first season for Guardiola at Man City, he will certainly be dipping into his mega-bucks transfer funds this summer.

With Chelsea and Tottenham running away with it in a two-horse race, both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will be slightly disappointed they have been able not to match the ambitions of both the London clubs. Expect both coaches to pull out big cheques this summer to strengthen their squads for the new season. Arsenal on the other hand, are facing an uncertain summer as the future of Arsene Wenger continues to be in question, will he still be at the helm this summer? Reports are emerging that the Frenchman will sign a two-year extension to his current deal.

And what about in La Liga? Barcelona themselves will be facing a hectic transfer window as they not only will be looking to strengthen their squad but will be on the hunt for a new man at the helm to replace Luis Enrique. Will Real Madrid be looking for another Galactico? Eden Hazard maybe? Kylian Mbappe?

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Could Eden Hazard become the next Galactico signing at the Santiago Bernabeu?

There are a lot of questions, debates and uncertainty that will need to be answered as we enter into the summer transfer window. Nonetheless, it will be an enthralling summer filled with transfer surprises and of course, a number of mega-buck signings.

But which of these major signings can we expect? Lets take a look at Part 1 of the expected major signings to happen this summer:

Antoine Griezmann – Manchester United

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Could Antoine Griezmann be joining up with his French team-mate Paul Pogba at Old Trafford?

A transfer saga we are tired of seeing on our front page of the newspaper, our social media platforms, or even on the news but its a potential transfer that is sure to light up the Barclays Premier League if Manchester United succeed in getting the deal over the line. Lets face it, Antoine Griezmann has grown into one of the biggest stars in World Football. Once considered too small a player to make it on the biggest stage during his early stages at Real Sociedad, the French superstar has defied his earlier critics with some outstanding performances for Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone. It is now 3 successive seasons Griezmann has surpassed the feat of 20 goals in all competitions in a calendar season. The current season hasn’t been as good a season as we would have expected from Atletico but they are on course to compete in the Champions League again next season by fighting for a 3rd spot with Sevilla.

Antoine Griezmann just maybe the calibre signing United need right now, with the uncertain future Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his significant injury , Jose Mourinho is in desperate need of a top quality striker and Griezmann fits the bill. United’s record in front of goal this season has been nothing short dismal plus with Ibrahimovic out, they only have Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney to call upon… Mourinho is in desperate need of Griezmann’s services. If that is to happen, Champions League football must be secured for next season.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea/Manchester United

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Who will Romelu Lukaku be joining this summer?

Reports in The Sun Newspaper are stating that Romelu Lukaku could turn his back on a potential deal to rejoin Chelsea due to his worry about fitting into the style of Antonio Conte. It is believed the Belgian forward is torn between going back to Stamford Bridge and the prospect of moving to Manchester United. Lukaku, who is on course to finish the Premier league season with the Golden Boot with 24 goals to his name with the season drawing to a close, desperately wants to play Champions League football next season. While that luxury may not yet be certain at Old Trafford, the prospect of joining Chelsea might be Lukaku’s only real option.

Chelsea’s sporting director, Michael Emenalo will behind the move if Lukaku is to return to Stamford bridge and with Diego Costa surely on his way to China, Conte will be looking for an ideal replacement; however, the £80million asking price Everton have slapped on the Belgian may hinder Chelsea’s chances to make a move on the Belgian and the may swing their attentions elsewhere, with Alvaro Morata at Real Madrid likely to become available in the summer. Wherever Romelu Lukaku could end up this summer, lets just hope he makes the right move for his career. Champions League football may have to wait a little longer…

James Rodriguez – Manchester United/Chelsea/Juventus

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According to Sky Sports La Liga expert, Guillem Balague, Manchester United are clear favourites to sign Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez. The Columbian superstar and United manager Jose Mourinho both share the same agent – Jorge Mendes. It is believed that James is being touted by many of the top clubs in Europe but he sees United as the ideal club for the next stage in his career.

According to Colombian Radio Station RCN, James Rodriguez has agreed a deal in principle with Manchester United. It is also believed, James and his agent Jorge Mendes, have met with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to discuss the players discontent with his situation at the Bernabeu.

Rodriguez is frustrated at the lack of game time being handed to him by Zidane at the club, despite that, he has reached double figures in terms of goals for the season in Madrid’s 4-0 victory over Granada couple weeks ago – a testament to his qualities which came to light at the 2014 World Cup, the reason Real Madrid invested so heavily on him straight after the tournament.

James is one of Europe’s most coveted talents and he obviously feels he won’t be able to reach his potential on the bench at Real Madrid, and of course he is right. The Columbian is just too good to be languishing on the sidelines, but how will he fit into the starting XI at United or Chelsea? Another question we’ll have to find out in this transfer window.

Alvaro Morata – Chelsea/Arsenal/Manchester United

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Could Morata be on his way to Stamford Bridge?

Another player on the cusp of leaving the Santiago Bernabeu. Another forward too good to be languishing on the bench. Alvaro Morata is in desperate need of a change of scenery; observing from the bench at Real Madrid just won’t do him any favours. Morata has notched an impressive 21 goals this season, 15 La Liga goals in 11 starts, an astonishing return despite being no.2 to Karim Benzema – a testament to the quality he adds to the team as Real Madrid continue to battle for trophies both on the European and Domestic front.

According to Sky Sports La Liga expert Guillem Balague, Alvaro Morata wants to see what happens with the situation at Chelsea regarding the potential sale of Diego Costa – there is a choice to be made between Morata and Lukaku, the first one preferred by Conte and the second preferred by the club. There is a debate as to who would suit Chelsea more, it is believed that Morata would be the better option tactically. His movement, understanding of the coach and his intelligence leading the line may swing Chelsea towards the signing of the Spanish international.

There haven’t been many reports about links with Arsenal but why not Wenger go for the young forward? Arsenal are in desperate need of a top-quality forward and Morata certainly fits the bill. Wenger would be wise to move for him too.

Eden Hazard – Real Madrid?

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Premier League title winner Hazard is happy at Stamford Bridge but will he be tempted by a move to the Santiago Bernabeu?

A potential transfer deal that would truly damage not only Chelsea fans but the Premier League neutrals also. Eden Hazard has become one of the most exciting players to watch over the years with his unerring pieces of skill and ability on the ball. If Hazard was to move to La Liga this summer, we will be losing of the Premier League’s most prized assets. We all talk about Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar but Hazard should be breathed in the same class.

Various reports have emerged that Hazard is more than happy to stay with Chelsea one more season as the club return into the Champions League after a year out. The Belgian superstar has two Premier League trophies to his cabinet already and he will be dreaming of a Champions League medal. Hazard would need to decide this summer, which club can match his ambitions this summer? A move to the mighty Real Madrid who are on course for yet another European gong to their decorated Champions League cabinet or stay it out at Chelsea to see what happens. Hazard does look like he is staying at the Bridge next season but when a transfer deal involves Real Madrid, you just never know…

David De Gea – Real Madrid

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Will David De Gea finally get the move he desires this summer?

Twice over the past three years Real Madrid had failed in their attempts to secure the signature of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea. This summer may just be the year Madrid finally get their man. Widespread reports have suggested that the Bernabeu club will go all out for the Spanish goalkeeper once the transfer window reopens.

A goalkeeper who has grown into one of the World’s best after a difficult start to life at Old Trafford under Sir Alex, he has matured and grown considerably since then. His confidence and belief in his own outstanding abilities his biggest attributes over the years at United.

It is reported in various news reports that United are trying everything they can to offer De Gea a contract with only two years left on his current deal, however, it seems as though De Gea has his heart set on a move back to his homeland.

If that was to occur, Jose Mourinho will have a tough job on his hands trying to replace an incredible asset – a goalkeeper worthy winning points on his own, a goalkeeper that can win you a Premier League title in fact.

Kasper Schmeichel – Manchester United

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Could Kasper Schmeichel follow in the footsteps of his father in succeeding at Old Trafford?

This deal could be in direct response to the above. If David De Gea was to leave Old Trafford – it is believed – according to Sky Sources that Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel could be the potential heir to the Spanish goalkeeper’s throne. And why not? Schmeichel represents a steady replacement for David De Gea, if you look at his form and abilities over the past few years. Schmeichel’s heroics last season in Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League title triumph and his performances in the Champions League this season has catapulted him to greater heights and he could find himself at a top club like Manchester United before the start of next season.

Bearing in mind, his father used to be an Old Trafford legend. Prophecy?

Virgil Van Dijk – Man City/Liverpool/Chelsea

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Will Virgil Van Dijk remain at St Mary’s next season?

Southampton manager Claude Puel stated he is adamant Virgil Van Dijk will be staying at Southampton beyond this summer. Clearly the French coach does not his board well, in over the past 6 years Southampton have received reasonable money for star players for example; Sadio Mane, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne Dejan Lovren have all been sold by Southampton for large sums (mostly to Liverpool) and that won’t change this summer regarding the future of Van Dijk.

Strong, agile, steady and solid. All you need in a top class defender plus he great ability on the ball is a huge asset to the way Southampton play, no wonder why they have sorely missed his presence at the back for most of the season.

Expect clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool to submit high bids for the Dutch international who is valued at an incredible £50million pounds. Southampton will gladly accept that kind of offer with open arms.

Marco Verratti – Barcelona/Bayern Munich

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Marco Verratti has stated he likes the PSG project at this moment in time, but a move to the Camp Nou could sway his decision.

The ideal successor to Andres Iniesta’s throne at Barcelona. The Catalan club have been trying to sign the Marco Verratti for a while now, and it easy to see why. The diminutive Italian seems the perfect fit for Barcelona’s midfield that you’d think he’d been moulded from the earth found under the Camp Nou pitch. It’s quite unerring how good a match this would be if Verratti were to seek pastures new and move to Barcelona this summer.

Marco Verratti is a playmaker extraordinaire. Capable of dictating play, threading balls through the eye of the needle – into feet, onto runs. He can run with the ball, and while he’s no Neymar, he certainly has the ability to dribble past his opponents with ease. More than his ability to attack, he is a great defender. A shield to the back four at PSG – tenacious in the tackle, and his zeal for dispossessing his opponents. The perfect man to replace the great Andres Iniesta. I ain’t a Barcelona fan at heart, but I would be very excited at the prospect of watching Verratti dominating La Liga for years to come.

Bayern Munich are believed to be interested in the Italian’s services also – a perfect replacement for Xabi Alonso who is retiring at the end of the season. Though his ability would make him a perfect fit for Barcelona.

Wonderful player.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan Can Become a Huge Fan Favourite at Old Trafford.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan Can Become a Huge Fan Favourite at Old Trafford.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been a man of mystery before the game against Feyenoord – you could see why the fans were celebratory as his name was read out at the start of the game. Hailed as one of the signings of the summer following his £26.3million switch from Borrusia Dortmund, the attacking midfielder found himself on the outskirts of the United team since his underwhelming performance against Manchester City on his debut where he was hooked off at half-time.

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan didn’t enjoy the best of debuts against Manchester City earlier on in the season.

 

He didn’t even make the substitutes bench against Arsenal as Mourinho stated he wasn’t ready for the pressures and rigours of the game which then led to much disagreement to Manchester United fans across Social Media. Jose Mourinho had inadvertently put pressure on Mkhitaryan by stating that Feyenoord was a better game for him to play his normal game rather than the heated rivalry with Arsenal. As a result, this admission had prompted fans to question the mentality of the former Dortmund star.

However, Armenia’s record goalscorer was hungry to show that he can handle the big stage at the infamous Theatre of Dreams. Making his first start since the Manchester derby back in September, Mkhitaryan put in a performance that reminded everyone around the club and most certainly Jose Mourinho of hisability in the 4-0 win against Feyenoord.

At the start of the game, there was a huge sense of intrigue as fans were waiting to see what the midfielder – who recorded 11 goals and 15 assists last season for Dortmund in the Bundesliga last season – could do in Manchester United shirt, given another chance.

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan bulldozes his way through the Feyenoord backline.

 

Fans were enthused by the inclusion of Mkhitaryan and by the time he was taken off on the stroke of the 82nd minute he had already put in a man of the match performance which would have certainly made a case for a more prominent starting berth as the season progresses.

There’s no doubt about it, the performance against Feyenoord certainly kicked off his United career in earnest.

Nominally starting on the left of an attacking trio along with Wayne Rooney, Mata behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic – a flexible front four – he was immediately involved with the build up play. His link-up play with Carrick and Rooney certainly was impressive. Within the first minute of the game, he ghosted into the box. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header back across goal nearly fell for the Armenian – it was clear he would be an immediate factor in United’s performance.

There was no escaping the look of a play who was hungry for the challenge after being starved of first team action. His ability with the ball and without it certainly showed, he played a sumptuous one-two with Wayne Rooney which would have put him in for his first United goal only for Wayne Rooney’s return to be slightly over hit. That piece of play told the story for the whole night as Mkhitaryan, Mata and Rooney simply were too good for the Feyenoord defence. The fluidity and movement in around Zlatan Ibrahimovic certainly Mourinho much to think about as he continues to find the perfect balance to his attacking trio in behind Zlatan.

The midfield looks to be sorted out with the trio of Carrick, Pogba and Ander Herrera certainly providing United with the power, tenacity and composure to control matches but its in front where Mourinho is still searching for the guaranteed attacking trio, and Mkhitaryan certainly would have got Mourinho pulling his hair out after his man of the match performance.

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Mkhitaryan had six shots on goal – more than the whole Feyenoord team combined.

 

Every time Pogba or Carrick were on the ball, they were provided with the luxury of options as Mkhitaryan constantly disrupted the Feyenoord backline with his penetrative runs in behind and silky movement in an around the final third.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a clear target for his hold-up play and flick-ons. A buzzing playmaker making things happen. Juan Mata certainly had a partner in crime, another play who possesses the ability to thread the eye of the needle pass and the ability  to fashion chances for themselves.

Even Wayne Rooney who has struggled for form all season looked like a man possessed. Starting on the left, Rooney and Mkhitaryan constantly exchanged positions in a fluid system that left Feyenoord in a big spot of bother. Rooney relished his time on the left simply because Mkhitaryan was so good in the middle that he managed to find himself in lots of space.

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Rooney’s opening goal made him United’s all time top scorer in European Competition. (38)

 

There were other glimpses of neat footwork and tidy dribbling which were hallmarks of his play at Dortmund – but there’s no doubt Mourinho would have demanded more from his man at half-time.

He got it. Within moments of the re-start Mkhitaryan, pressing with renewed verve, nearly nicked the ball off the visitors’ right-back Rick Karsdorp and then battled his way through two challenges as he drove towards the Feyenoord area. On 49 minutes his left-foot snap-shot was blocked at close range.

Sixty seconds later Mkhitaryan had United supporters out of their seats again with a surging, slaloming run from his own half deep into enemy territory past three Feyenoord defenders. He was bundled down 25 yards from goal, yet remarkably Jens Toornstra’s challenge went unpunished.

Not shot shy

Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit a game-high six shots in the match, two more than he had managed in his previous 134 minutes of action combined for Manchester United this season in all competitions.

While Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Mata and Ibrahimovic may not provide Mourinho with the kind of pace he desires, the neat one-two passes and quick link up play did inject much needed verve which has sorely been missing from United at times this season.

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Mkhitaryan has certainly made a case to be a certain starter in Mourinho’s starting XI.

Substituted late on to appreciative applause, Henrikh Mkhitaryan certainly played his way back into contention. Maybe Mourinho was right to starve the Armenian of first team action because the energy and willingness to prove his doubters wrong certainly showed against Feyenoord. Mkhitaryan may not have scored or assisted, but he still played with the assurance and dynamism that endeared him to the Dortmund faithful. The stats on the night exemplified a quality showing, with six shots, three chances created, two take-ons won, won 100% of his tackles, 67% of his aerial duels and completed 85% of his passes.

Causality doesn’t necessarily imply causation, but it’s really hard to not think that Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s arrival as a Manchester United player may well have heralded the true beginning of the José Mourinho’s era at Old Trafford.