Henrikh Mkhitaryan has opened up about his rocky start at Manchester United this season.
The Armenian, who joined the club in July, made a couple of impressive substitute appearances against Southampton and Hull City before receiving a chance to start against Manchester City on September 10.
However, following a muted performance against Pep Guardiola’s men (he was hooked off at half-time), Mkhitaryan had to wait 15 games for his next opportunity to impress from the start.
The 27-year-old, who has now established himself as a fundamental component to Jose Mourinho’s attacking quartet, opened up about his tricky start to life at Old Trafford this season.
“It’s always a pleasure to play,” he said.
“To play for Manchester United is a dream. I’m always happy to start a game for this team. I’m always trying to do my best for this team.
“English football is really different to football in other countries. So if you’re playing in Germany, France, England or Spain you have to get used to playing in that league.
“In the beginning it was a little bit hard but I keep doing everything that is needed to become a Premier League player.
“I’ve done hard work and I’ve tried to do everything the manager is asking from me to play in this team and to be useful for the team.”
That first half against Man City, whilst agonising at the time, was perhaps the best possible thing that could have happened to Mkhitaryan. It was, above anything, a sobering dose of reality – a reminder that, for all his brilliance, the Armenian had plenty of work to do.
And so he did, working religiously every week in training, his spirit remaining strong despite his continued exclusion, until Mourinho – convinced that he was ready – unleashed Mkhitaryan against Feyenoord on November 24, a full 76 days after his last start.
Since then, the Armenian hasn’t looked back. He has made seven appearances since making his return to the starting XI, claiming four Man of the Match awards, two assists and one goal. A truly magnificent comeback. United fans will hope to see him kick on in similar style upon his return on Boxing Day.