Jose Mourinho intends to make Borussia Dortmund playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan one of his first marquee signings as Manchester United manager according to the rumour mill and it’s a move which makes total sense.
It wasn’t always this way in transactions between the European powerhouses though, as Mkhitaryan’s current BvB teammate can attest.
When Sir Alex Ferguson signed fellow Dortmund schemer Shinji Kagawa in 2012, it gradually became clear that United’s great manager had made something of a blunder. The Scot did not have a defined role in mind for one of Europe’s vogue midfielders.
Kagawa rarely completed 90 minutes and only appeared 20 times in the Premier League across 2012/13, where he was routinely deployed on the left of a front three despite the Japanese international arriving as a certified number 10.
His influence at former club Dortmund, where Kagawa’s guile and goals from central areas had played a crucial role in landing Jurgen Klopp successive Bundesliga titles, was greatly diminished.
Four years on from Kagawa’s switch and 27-year-old Mkhitaryan might well be wary of exposing himself to similar pitfalls if he jumps ship for a fee rumoured to be around the £30m mark.
Mourinho’s preference for industry, as well as attacking prowess, from his midfielders suggests those fears would be allayed however.
The Armenian international who wears 10 for Thomas Tuchel’s Bundesliga runners-up was played predominantly off the right of a three-pronged attack during the campaign just gone.
It’s safe to say he was a success as Mkhitaryan provided 11 goals and 15 Bundesliga assists to the BvB cause. Man United would obviously be getting a very strong offensive force, but it’s the player’s all-round work ethic that also marks him out as a true Mourinho type.
Juan Mata famously felt the Special One’s wrath when reportedly deemed too lackadaisical in his defensive duties, and despite winning the fans’ player of the year award in successive seasons, was promptly sold to Man United.
The Spaniard’s United days may now be numbered given he often occupies the right-sided forward role.
According to the stats bods at Squawka.com, Mkhitaryan’s all-round defensive contribution trumps Mata’s over the 2015/16 campaign.
Despite making seven less appearances in his respective league, the Dortmund man stole 49 interceptions to Mata’s 22, won 39 tackles to 23 and blocked four shots to his counterpart’s zero.
Mkhitaryan will be a marked improvement in all areas where Mourinho is concerned, while Jesse Lingard’s progress under Louis van Gaal last term could also suffer if the Dortmund star arrives.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.