Manchester United’s tactical plans for Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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Manchester United are on the verge of signing one of Europe’s top playmakers if reports are anything to go by.

We reported earlier this week that the Red Devils are closing in on the Borussia Dortmund attacker, with the latest reports suggesting that the German Bundesliga side have accepted a £33 million bid from the Premier League giants.

José Mourinho has been widely-expected to land a new playmaker as one of his transfers this summer after United scored a club record low 49 goals last season.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan would bring a different type of playmaker to United.  The Armenian international loves to run at defences and have more pops at goal than Juan Mata has had during his past two-and-a-half years.

Based on history, Juan Mata could be shipped out this summer as Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea when he flogged him off to Old Trafford January 2013, then with David Moyes in charge of the Premier League giants.

It has been a frustrating two-and-a-half years for the Spaniard in and out of the side under Louis van Gaal and often being played out on the right wing.  Whilst it’s not a given that Mourinho will ship him out during this summer transfer window, at least until he is replaced the midfield upgraded, many don’t expect Mata to be around for too long.

The Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder is both a creator and goalscorer – scoring 11 goals and adding a further 15 assists in his 31 Bundesliga appearances this past season.  Compare that to Mata who had five goals and six assists in his 38 appearances in a United shirt this past season.

Mourinho’s decision to sell Mata from Chelsea was down to his off-the-ball effort, or lack of.  Mkhitaryan works hard off the ball to win it back often setting up counter attacks from inside his own half.  He is a lot quicker than Mata and loves driving at defenders which would be another asset to United.

Juan Mata was given both the number 10 and right wing roles this past season under Louis van Gaal where he had a number of quiet games when not playing in the middle.  In contrast, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been successful playing on the right, left and middle in a 4-2-3-1 formation.  Granted the level of opposition is a lot lower when playing for Borussia Dortmund than playing for any Premier League side.

Manchester United’s recent previous experience in dealings with Borussia Dortmund is Shinji Kagawa.  Signed by Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of the 2012-13 season, the Japanese international had been a star in Germany with his quick, short passing and movement inside the penalty area.  However, Kagawa never made much of an impact in England aside from a hat-trick versus Norwich City. He was in and out of the side in his first season before being very limited with his opportunities in his second season, under David Moyes, before returning to the Signal Iduna Arena.

So where would Mourinho play his potential £33 million signing?  Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s versatility means he can quite literally fill in the weakest gap.  Currently United don’t have a right winger, whilst Wayne Rooney spent a lot of last season in the number 10 and Mourinho was a big fan of the England captain whilst Chelsea manager.  Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay and Ashley Young are all options on the left wing, though the latter is expected to leave this summer and the former is a contender to be moved back up front.

The summer transfer window hasn’t officially opened and with more than two months to purchase players it’s far too early to predict where Mkhitaryan would line up in the United starting XI, assuming they do go on to sign him.  One thing’s for sure, he’d certainly be an upgrade on the current team and an excellent signing to help Manchester United challenge for the 2016-17 Premier League titles.

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