José Mourinho's assertiveness proved successful with £26million signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and it has sent an important message to his Manchester United teammates.
Through three seasons of often dire football and results of a similar manner, criticism was mainly aimed at managers. Yet some was reserved for the players of Manchester United too, the speed with which they began to half-heartedly follow David Moyes' philosophy worrying for some supporters. Reports suggested Louis van Gaal faced a similar outlook from the players, e-mails ignored to such an extent the obsessive Dutchman had a tracker placed on e-mails. To evade this, United's players, who thought they were being handcuffed in footballing terms, left the emails open on their phone.
United fans have seen three years of half-hearted performances
Mourinho has ensured no player can be half-hearted in their attitude in his Manchester United. Nine of the eleven players in Saturday's starting line-up against Reading in the Cup were starters in the FA Cup Final, van Gaal's final United game. The style was different, more successful, more exciting, more United.
Mourinho has not simply brought in the Hollywood signings (to great success) of Zlatan, Pogba and even Mkhitaryan. He's changed United's style of play and their mentality. Mkhitaryan was the unfortunate victim in Mourinho turning this United squad on their head to make them winners again.
Playing with an injury in the Manchester derby, Mkhitaryan looked uncomfortable, weak, unsuited to the Premier League. He didn't return for almost 80 days. Some suggested it was an early end, a failed £26million experiment. Mourinho's attitude was not the same. Throughout the period, during which United struggled to capitalise on dominating games, Mourinho maintained that once Mkhitaryan improved he'd return to the team. He kept his word.
Mkhitaryan has returned from the cold as United's most exciting player
Mkhitaryan has come back as United's most exciting player; daring, creative, talented. All this came together for that one moment of Boxing Day magic at Old Trafford, the scorpion kick.
Mourinho's actions were brave. Stupid, some say. Some would be wrong. Mkhitaryan's performances since he was dropped for two months have been scintillating. They haven't proved Mourinho was wrong, they continue to prove his method worked.
Of course, it is brilliant that United and their supporters now have an exciting, creative and efficient forward in Mkhitaryan. Mourinho will be delighted.
Mourinho will be delighted with message Mkhitaryan's absence sent to players
He'll also, though, be delighted with the messages it has sent to his players. Mourinho will not allow the wrong mentality or a lack of quality to get in the way of success at Manchester United; people will be dropped, or even let go. In the opposite direction, the series of events shows the Portuguese keeps his promises and can be trusted to improve his players.
This is just one decision that has pleased Manchester United supporters, now revelling in the superb performances of Mkhitaryan, their "midfield Armenian". The trust in Mourinho is increasing, of course aided by a run of nine consecutive victories and an unbeaten spell of more than two months.