Just over two full months into the season, it’s fair to say that the four signings that Manchester United brought to the club have had mixed results. Paul Pogba, purchased for a world-record sum of £89m has sparkled on occasion, but disappeared in too many games this season to escape criticism, and the Frenchman needs to up his game. Zlatan Ibrahimovic started this term in fine form, but has only bagged one goal in his last seven games, and has appeared distinctly off the pace and disinterested during games far too often over the last month. His profligacy in front of goal has cost United on several occasions, too.
Shockingly enough, the least well-known of those four transfers has arguably been the most consistent; 22-year old Eric Bailly has been a defensive rock for United this season and provided some much needed physical presence and strength in a backline that has lacked it for many years. The young Ivorian has been fearless, and it’s a sign of how good he’s been that his potential absence having picked up a knee ligament injury against Chelsea this past weekend is being treated as a crisis by the club’s fans.
All three of these players can at least lay claim to having shown something since joining the club. The fourth signing, however, has barely made an impression. When Henrikh Mkhitaryan left Borussia Dortmund this summer for Old Trafford, it’s fair to say that he didn’t envisage himself being left out of the entire squad for Europa League games, having failed to convince Jose Mourinho of his fitness and readiness to play games. At this stage, Mkhitaryan has only started one game for the club so far, and that was at the start of September in United’s 1-2 loss to City in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Three substitute appearances preceded that, but since then, injury and Mourinho’s lack of willingness to play the Armenian international has kept him out of the squad, let alone the starting line-up completely.
It’s baffling. This was a player that Mourinho wanted, voted Bundesliga player of the year last season and scorer of 23 goals for the German club, but so far, the pace and skill that made Mkhitaryan one to watch over the entire continent has seemingly been locked in a box as Mourinho waits and waits to utilise him. Given how United have struggled to create in their last two Premier League games, and with Marcus Rashford ill-suited to a role on Ibrahimovic’s right, it’s time to drop Mkhitaryan into the side and see what he can do.
The Armenian should play at least some part in United’s EFL Cup third round tie with Manchester City on Wednesday, just to give him some minutes and get him reacquainted with football again, given how long he’s sat on the sidelines. Mkhitaryan stated that he wouldn’t have left Dortmund for any other club, and for once, such a sentiment seemed genuine; it’s time for his new manager to let him prove bringing him to Manchester was the right decision.