Dortmund lit up the Bundesliga in the 2015/16 season, scoring like it was nobody’s business and ultimately, even though the Bavarians will never admit it, instilling fear into Bayern Munich’s icy heart.
Although Bayern eventually triumphed over their rivals with a 10-point gap, Dortmund ended the season as arguably the Bundesliga’s most entertaining side – now Manchester United creator-in-chief, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at the forefront of that.
You see, prior to the 2015/16 season, Mkhitaryan was one of Europe’s lesser known midfield maestros – somewhat of an on-his-day, but quality footballer whose ‘days’ were phenomenal, so it came as somewhat of a shock when he did what he did for Dortmund and piqued the interest of ‘the biggest club in the world’.
Convinced by the spectacle of a big-money move to Manchester United, the Armenia international said goodbye to the Signal Iduna Park.
He arrived in the Premier League with a combined tally of 26 goals and assists, a figure that was sure to keep United fans keenly anticipating his influence as Jose Mourinho looked to lead the Red Devils to glory once again.
Everybody expected Mkhitaryan to pick up from where he left off at Dortmund, challenge Mesut Ozil for the title of Premier League assist king, what nobody expected, though, was a campaign asking Mourinho to free Mkhitaryan from the sidelines.
He ended up playing an insignificant role in United’s season of six jokes with his best performances coming on a date not usually associated with the giants of English football, Thursday night.
All of that seems to be a thing of the past now. The six jokes are over, #FreeMkhitaryan is no more, and United are playing like real contenders, and Mkhitaryan has finally unleashed his elegant beast mode upon the English top-flight.
Apart from the assists, his overall play has been nothing short of sublime as he’s brilliantly linked up with Lukaku so far this season who looks set to enjoy a Henry/Bergkamp-esque partnership with the Armenia international.
The ex-Dortmund man makes United tick, in a way arguably no player has since their last Premier League title winning season.
At the moment United’s strike force is made up of four-ish strikers, Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and last but certainly not least, Old Trafford’s resident lion, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Due to United’s depth, as well as the number of competitions they’re involved in, Jose Mourinho will, at some point, opt to shuffle his side in a bid to avoid fatigue.
Assuming United make it out of their Champions League group with a game or two to spare, we’re likely to see the rotation quite early.
But whilst the Special one is able to change things up in nearly every position on the pitch, he doesn’t have that luxury in the No. 10 role, due to Mkhitaryan’s seemingly indispensable influence.
The 26-year-old looks so reborn that Mourinho’s cautious usage of him last season almost seems justified. Old Trafford has craved a quality creative midfielder for years now, and nearly even missed out on peak-Mkhi this season as United were linked with the Bundesliga’s current assist king, Emil Forsberg, in the summer transfer window.
Mkhitaryan’s cause has certainly been helped by Forsberg’s refusal to move and Leipzig’s refusal to listen to any offers.
United have also benefitted a great deal as well as they now have a player, who’s his served his time in the backgrounds getting accustomed to English football and is now ready to hog the spotlight with his panache and speed of thought.
From what we’ve seen thus far, I think we can safely assess that Manchester United are the real deal. This is the closest we’ve seen to a Sir Alex Ferguson side since Fergie’s actual side due in large part to the confidence flowing through the squad and Mkhitaryan’s effectiveness in the No. 10 role.
With five assists to his name already, you can only wonder how many goals Mkhitaryan will go on to create this season in and beyond the Premier League, but from the looks of things, its poised to be a silverware-winning tally.