Former Arsenal winger Paul Merson believes that Jose Mourinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will guide Manchester United to the top four this season.
The Portuguese, during what was a difficult opening few months at Old Trafford, kept Mkhitaryan – who endured a difficult first start against Manchester City back in September – out of the starting XI until late November.
Mkhitaryan’s reintroduction to the starting XI coincided with a sudden resurgence in form from Mourinho’s men, now lying just two points behind fourth spot.
And Merson, speaking earlier today, noted that Mkhitaryan and Mourinho – both now fully adjusted to life at Old Trafford after challenging start – have what it takes to secure Champions League football for next season.
“It’s hard to read too much into the fixtures right now as you could be playing a team with nothing to play for while your rivals are against a side fighting for their lives,” he said.
“I’m going for Manchester United in fourth though as I think Jose Mourinho has got them going and I’ve said from day one [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan is a fantastic player, so having him firing is a huge boost.”
It is no surprise that Man United only started to find their groove once Mkhitaryan settled at Old Trafford. The Armenian, after all, is far more than just another creative influence going forward; he is the side’s driving force, the reason behind their newfound conviction going forward.
United come across as a frustrated, unsure outfit without the 28-year-old at the centre of proceedings, but place him in that No.10 role and the entire dynamic changes: they are faster, more fluid, less predictable and, most importantly, devastatingly clinical. Mourinho will indeed hope that the Armenian stays fit over the next few months.