After a Man of the Match performance in Manchester United's 4-0 win against Feyenoord on Thursday night, Henrikh Mkhitaryan could start for the second consecutive game at the weekend, admitted manager Jose Mourinho.
Mkhitaryan has been far from the centre of on-pitch matters for United but certainly in the middle of off-pitch matters at Old Trafford this season. After a shocking performance, perhaps due to a niggling injury, in the Manchester derby, Mourinho slammed the Armenian midfielder and has had him out of the matchday squad frequently since.
Mourinho praises Mkhitaryan after stellar performance
Mourinho had recently been discussing Mkhitaryan's re-introduction in games of lesser magnitude and started him for the first time since that 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford on Thursday. His directness, speed and footwork impressed United fans, awarding him Man of the Match.
The Portuguese manager suggested after United's 4-0 win that Mkhitaryan now just needs "to replicate this kind of performance in the Premier League," because it is different in England's top division. "He needs on more step," suggested Mourinho, but "obviously now confidence levels are higher."
Mkhitaryan needs more physicality and aggression
Mkhitaryan's performance on Thursday, Mourinho said, "gives him the right to believe that he can play the next match again." United host West Ham United twice in four days, on Sunday and Wednesday, at Old Trafford. Mkhitaryan will be hoping it is he who is one of those in the side, who were unstoppable after their second goal, who is kept in for Sunday. "He needs to replicate this kind of performance in the Premier League," repeated Mourinho, "with more physicality and more aggression."
While Mkhitaryan "needs a little bit more of that [physicality and aggression]," Mourinho was very impressed with his "quality". That is "why we bought him, we know we were buying a player with a high level of technical quality."
A key attribute Mkhitaryan showed on Thursday was what was evident at Borussia Dortmund last season, his ability to create space not only for himself but others in the side with his movement. "[He is] very intelligent and very bright, the way he reads the game, so good for him because the performance was good," Mourinho concluded.