Manchester United capitalised on Arsenal and Liverpool dropping points on Saturday with a solid 3-0 win against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The result means the gap between the Red Devils and the top four is now down to just two points.
The game got off to a sluggish start, with neither side really testing the opposition in the opening stages. However, two quick-fire goals on the stroke of half-time from Henrik Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before a clincher from Juan Mata ensured that United ended their run of three consecutive draws in the Premier League.
After 41 minutes of frustration, Mourinho opted for a change of tactics, moving Mkhitaryan away from the left wing, where he was placed to accommodate Rashford and Ibrahimovic, and into a more central role. It worked a treat for the Red Devils, who quickly starting turning up the gears following the change.
Mkhitaryan provided the moment of quality to open up the game for Mourinho’s side, beating Robert Huth to the ball just inside the Leicester half before running through on goal and slotting past Kasper Schmeichel. The Armenian midfielder then turned creator for United’s third, playing a wonderful one-two with Juan Mata before the Spaniard steered in at the near post.
Here’s how twitter reacted to Mkhitaryan’s display. Do you agree?
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is pure class. Brilliant to watch how he plays the game – such pace, accuracy and imagination. What a player.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) February 5, 2017
Mkhitaryan prefers to play as the 10 and might stay there. Offers much more impetus than other playmakers. #mufc
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 5, 2017
What a player Mkhitaryan is. Seems to be as fast with the ball at his feet as without it.
— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) February 5, 2017
United didn't look comfortable for 42 minutes. Then scored two in two minutes. Bringing Mkhitaryan into central role has changed the game.
— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) February 5, 2017
It’s crazy to think that just two months ago, the midfielder was being cast aside, much like Anthony Martial at present. Following a poor performance in the Manchester derby in September, Mkhitaryan has responded exceptionally from his early-season exile and his performance against Leicester typified just how far he has come.
Since being given another chance by Mourinho, Mkhitaryan has started 12 games, scoring five goals in the process. Moving into the number 10 spot has caused a significant rise in his performances and against Leicester he looked like United’s greatest threat – a stark contrast from his early season woes.
Scoring just 36 goals, the side are the lowest scorers of any of the big six – 10 goals behind Spurs, but Mourinho may have found a solution with Mkhitaryan providing the side with an extra edge and zip to their play from the middle of the park.
Despite getting off to a rocky start at Manchester United, Mkhitaryan has shown his quality in recent weeks, injecting a much greater attacking impetus into the side. Fans will be hoping to see more of the same from the 28-year-old as Mourinho’s side look to keep up the pressure on the top four and try and secure Champions League football for next season.