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Chris Smalling: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been incredible at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Chris Smalling has heaped praise on Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s progress at Manchester United this season, making note of his valuably unpredictable nature on the pitch.

The Armenian, who arrived over the summer for a £27m fee, was initially consigned to a lengthy period on the sidelines by Jose Mourinho back in 2016.

He was finally reintroduced for Man United’s 4-0 win over Feyenoord in late November and hasn’t looked back since, producing a number of scintillating displays and claiming three ‘Goal of the Month’ awards in a row.

And Smalling, speaking earlier this week, was quick to laud the 28-year-old’s recent achievements under Mourinho.

“As a player, he is very unpredictable,” he said.

“Every player in the world knows who Henrikh Mkhitaryan is. But it is one thing to know him and another to deal with him. I am lucky that he is on our team and I am not playing against him.”

“He had missed a few games but he came back and had an instant impact like he had never been away. It is great to have such great attacking options and Micki has been brilliant for us, because he is a threat that is very hard to defend against.”

Mourinho has a plethora of attacking talent as his disposal: Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and even Wayne Rooney all offer a particular dynamic going forward and have, with some variation between each player, exercised a positive impact this season.

But Mkhitaryan offers something intangibly different: you can, after a period of close inspection, somewhat predict the movements of the aforementioned five when it comes to their attacking approach, but just try to anticipate what Mkhitaryan will do in possession. You just can’t. The Armenian has a valuable propensity for leaving the entire watching world guessing whenever he receives the ball, and Mourinho will want to use such a valuable trait as much as possible over the next month or so.

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