Belfast Telegraph

Mkhitaryan needs time to flourish in Premiership: Jose

By Simon Peach

Jose Mourinho says it will take time for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to cope with the rigours of Premier League life, but has no doubt the attacking midfielder will shine at Manchester United. So outstanding for Borussia Dortmund in recent seasons, expectations were naturally high when the 27-year-old pitched up at Old Trafford in a £26.3million deal.

Mkhitaryan, the third signing of the summer, penned a four-year deal with the option to extend for a fifth, but after just a matter of months there are questions over the Armenian's future.

While a thigh injury played a part in restricting him to just 104 minutes of Premier League football, his return to fitness has not brought with it a recall to the squad.

Mkhitaryan's omission from Wednesday's EFL Cup win against Manchester City - the last team he lined-up against back on September 10 - fuelled speculation about his position, but Mourinho insists it is merely a matter of sharpness keeping him out.

"He's not injured," the United boss said. "Sometimes I confuse the meaning 'fit' in the English language.

"Sometimes, 'fit' means that you are not injured and sometimes 'fit' means you are in great condition and ready to compete. That's a different thing for me.

"In Portuguese, we use different words for different situations. Mkhitaryan is not injured, he is training with the team 100 per cent.

"Some players, with their profile, they are really adapted to come and to play.

"Some other players need more time - time to feel it, to feel the intensity and the aggression, the game without the ball, the competitiveness.

"Many times players come from different countries. The realities are different and the style of football is different and the realities are also different, for sure, in terms of competitiveness.

"There is no other country where it doesn't matter what team you play against, you have to play at the highest level because if you don't you have no chance.

"Does Mkhi need time to become the top player we know he can be? Yes, I think he does."

It is, Mourinho insists, just a case of Mkhitaryan getting used to the English game rather than anything deeper, pointing to well-known examples at his previous clubs.

"I think it works, for sure," he said of the Armenian. "I don't like to speak about players from other clubs but I don't think they will be upset with me.

"Willian, when he arrived at Chelsea, had problems. He went through a process and then after a few months he became a top player, then, the next season when the team were champions, he was absolutely phenomenal and still is.

"When Angel di Maria arrived at Real Madrid coming from Portugal, he also had to learn a lot about his game and adapt to a new reality.

"Sometimes it happens. It happens sometimes with defenders but I think for defenders it's easier to adapt.

"For the attacking players, sometimes they arrive and success arrives straight away. But some other times it takes a little more time.

"In Mkhi's case, the process was interrupted by an injury that kept him out for about a month.

"When you are in this process of evolution, to be out for a month and then become fit again but not fit enough to play, you have to go through a process of getting match fitness.

"Then when you have that, you need a competitive level to do it."

Premier League fixtures (3pm unless stated), Today: Sunderland v Arsenal (12.30pm), Man Utd v Burnley, Middlesbrough v Bournemouth, Tottenham v Leicester, Watford v Hull, West Brom v Man City, Crystal Palace v Liverpool (5.30pm); Tomorrow: Everton v West Ham (1.30pm), Southampton v Chelsea (4pm).

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph