Henrikh Mkhitaryan only needed 25 minutes to demonstrate his unquestionable worth to Jose Mourinho during Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Saint Etienne on Wednesday night.
It was thought that the home side, three goals behind after the first leg, would come out with all guns blazing, but the Armenian’s superb flick after 15 minutes completely killed off the tie.
He was then forced off with a hamstring strain just ten minutes later and will miss the League Cup final on Sunday.
But despite only featuring for 25 minutes, Mkhitaryan once again proved his status as one of Man United’s best performers this season – a notion reinforced by his superb record since re-establishing himself in the starting XI back in late November: 15 starts, nine goals, five assists.
There is something intangibly different about how Mkhitaryan goes about his business. At first glance you would see a diminutive, shy but unquestionably talented playmaker, capable of creating chances and moving the ball well.
But there is more to the Armenian’s game than a mere polished style: his goal against ASSE, for example, was an example of his superb intelligence off the ball. Nobody wearing green saw him coming before it was too late; the little genius had ghosted inside and poked the ball home, leaving the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in a state of sudden shock.
Man United fans will, no doubt, be desperate to see the 28-year-old restored to the starting XI as soon as possible.