Red Thoughts: Is time up for Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Manchester United?

by Red Debate

After Henrikh Mkhitaryan failed to impress off the bench against Bristol City, the Red Thoughts team discuss his future and whether he should or will be sold in January.

JIM: It pains me to say it, but I would sell him in January. His head is clearly somewhere else and he needs a fresh start at a new club – we can’t have people with his kind of poor attitude disrupting the dressing room.

EHSAAN: I agree with Jim but I would probably wait until the summer to do so. Unless of course Griezmann is on the table.

DAN: Mkhitaryan is a waste of space, he doesn’t really do anything in a game. Yes, he has provided a few assists, but he doesn’t work hard enough. He’s another player like Kagawa who had a few good seasons at Dortmund, then came to the Premier League and struggled. I would sell him if we get the right offer and cut our losses. Even against Bristol, the first two things he did was give the ball away. He didn’t really look like a man who wanted to fight for a place in the team. If we get a buyer for either him or Darmian in January, I wouldn’t be bothered cutting them as dead wood. They are both a waste of squad places blocking younger lads getting the places instead.

DEAN: Mkhitaryan is a unbelievable talent, and ticks all the boxes on being the perfect No.10, or even winger. But hasn’t really hit the heights of his Dortmund days at United. Mkhitaryan never really produces the performances required when United really need it. But wouldn’t sell him in January, just because there’s plenty of time and games to showcase that he is willing to fight for his place at United. But as right now, Mourinho has every right to drop him, United need players that can produce the goods when it’s needed and there’s a few player’s who are just not doing it.

RICK: I’d sell Mkhi in the summer, because last year he had this problem and this year it has been repeated. He just doesn’t do anything in games, he gives the ball away and really doesn’t supply our strikers with the ammo they need, which is what he’s in the side for. If he improves on that before the end of the season then fine, but not if he doesn’t. Unless we get a replacement, José won’t sell him in January because our squad is void of quality in depth as it is.

REX: The coach needs to take some of the stick here. Even if the player is not in form, there is no need to drop him for eight games. Thats not going to make him gain anything, especially if he’s frustrated at a lack of opportunities. As much as I like Mourinho, his decisions are baffling at times. So unless there was a bust up where you’d have to pick between him and the coach, I’d keep him. We let go of too much talent at the slightest bump. For next to nothing as well.

This entire team needs fire lit under their asses. When you get outfought in a game, there’s a problem. That’s two Championship level sides beating us that way (I include Huddersfield in that, as they are a recent Championship team). We know these games are their cup finals, but players still go in there half arsed. There needs to be accountability by everyone. Not just Mkhitaryan.

Also, we have to buy players that will actually help us, not just to make the media and fans go aaaahhh!!! If Mourinho has a system he wants to play, then help him get the best out of that system by getting him players suited for it. This whole “Galactico” business that we have going on is going to bite us in the backside. Zlatan was nowhere against Bristol City; other than the goal from a deflection, he was useless, but he stayed on until the 70th minute or so. At the moment, we have 3 or 4 world class players out of a 23 Man squad. To compete, this needs to change. Especially with Guardiola buying everything in sight!

COREY: To be honest, the person I am most frustrated with is Mourinho. As the season has progressed, we have seen Mourinho become more and more defensive, we are also seeing Mourinho lose the dressing room. Mhikitaryan is not the only one. We have seen a dip in Lukaku’s form, and when Lukaku does score, he refuses to celebrate. Then you have news articles coming out reporting that players like Pogba are getting frustrated at all the defensive training.

Look, I get it. Mourinho is not Sir Alex Ferguson. Mourinho will never be Sir Alex, and to compare them is completely unfair. But for 20+ years, not to mention our history prior to Sir Alex, United have been an attacking team. Under Sir Alex, we did not always win, but when we did, the fans were entertained. That, in a nutshell, is why I became a United Fan.

My whole family supports either Liverpool or Tottenham. I am the lonely United supporter. But I chose them because I enjoyed watching the exciting football on display. I enjoyed watching Beckham scoring breathtaking freekicks, or Giggs gliding past players on the left wing. All the last minute wins, in Fergie time. I enjoyed watching Keane flying into tackles, and Scholes spreading passes with godlike ability. I enjoyed watching Ronaldo score 40 yard screamers. Hell, I enjoyed the swagger that Pogba played with at the start of this season.

In the end, we are all here to be entertained. That is something, I think Moyes never understood, LVG never understood, and Mourinho is failing to understand. Yes, United have a tradition of winning, but If you give me a choice between entertainment and trophies, I will choose entertainment every time. It’s the only reason why I sit down for 90 mins, sometimes 3 times a week. Not so I can see a bunch of guys lift some piece of silverware… But for the highs and lows, the breathtaking moments, and the beautiful game.

BETS: I have noticed that the fans recently aren’t singing “Something tells me I’m into something good… José’s got us playing the way we should”, at least not as much as before. because José hasn’t got us playing the way we should at the moment. And I too would rather see us come 3rd or 4th playing attacking attractive football than win the league by parking the bus.

But maybe the defensive tactics are in response to a problem he sees in the side. We started the season playing some great stuff. Same manager obviously. But then we have the injury to Pogba, the loss of form of Mkhi, and the loss of form of Lukaku. Martial looks world class one minute and terrible the next … Herrera is off form … I also think Valencia is nowhere near the force he was last season and that pace and penetration down the right has been missing. So what do you do if so many of your team are off form? it can’t be José’s fault they’re all off form or injured, can it?

Missing out on Perisic has proven to be a big problem, we also desperately need another world class CM and a decent replacement for Michael Carrick. But the heartbeat of most teams is the no 10. Mkhi isn’t 21 years old, he’s 28. so it’s not a question of waiting for hm to fulfil his potential. He’s had a season and a half, so I say sell him in January. If we can’t get Griezmann then, get someone who will be an improvement on Mkhi. I heard a rumour about a João Mario swap deal, he can play no. 10, and as we’ve said before, we could also recall Pereira. They might not be ideal solutions, but better than nothing.

CARL:​ I said weeks ago when I asked who has the better squad out of Spurs and United that, whilst we have a lot of depth, the standard of that depth is not high at all. I don’t know how many years certain players need to disappoint before fans get it. Carrick was too old last season, I said then I’m concerned we won’t be able to truly compete for the title against the likes of Chelsea, City and Spurs’ midfield with a 36 year-old CDM at the heart of our side, and for all the stick he has taken, it was Fellaini who came in halfway through the season and actually did very well as a replacement. Martial was way off it last season, but back on it this season and I’m not gonna put too much into the fact he wasn’t great against Bristol City. Nobody’s great every game and he’s had a very good season so far on the whole, as has Rashford.

Herrera has been pretty useless this season to be fair. I was really pleased with his season last season and praised him a lot. But as for Mkhitaryan, there’s definitely been words exchanged between José and Mkhi and it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened to Mkhi, he has a history of upsetting his managers. I don’t know, I always rated him. His ability is unquestionable, but his desire and fight aren’t the greatest. If he goes he goes. I’ve never made a secret of the fact I’m an Özil fan and I’d like to see us bring him in instead. We need all the high quality creative players we can get and Özil  is up there with the best of them.

COREY: As far as I see it, there is no point in even talking about players like Özil or Griezmann coming in and replacing Mhikitaryan, because in the end, Mourinho is just going to make them put in and defensive shift. Can you imagine spending £100 mil (or whatever the cost is) on an attacking player, then asking him to defend for 90 mins? But that is Mourinho logic right there…

I just feel like we are not seeing the best of Lukaku, Mkhitaryan and co. because of Mourinho’s tactics. Özil  is already notorious for not putting in defensive shifts at Arsenal. Mata was thought to be on his way out when Mourinho first moved, because we all thought he couldn’t put in the defensive shift Mourinho would require. Shaw, who is clearly a fan favourite, can’t get game time, because Mourinho doesn’t think he is good enough defensively.

So why would we replace Mkhitaryan with Özil  or Griezmann, when Mourinho will just bench them as soon as they don’t defend to his standard?

RICK: I think it is very unfair to criticise José, given what he’s brought to the club since he’s been in power. If anyone is wondering why he and Lukaku are pissed off, it’s because of fans criticising every decision they make like, they can do better or have done better. We complained about Moyes because he’s crap, we complained about LVG because of the sideways passing, José has given us multiple trophies and we criticise him because we don’t play exciting football every game. No team can play attractive football every game and win matches. There were a number of times Sir Alex ground out results, and we played badly and got results. Did anyone criticise him then? Everyone talks about Sir Alex like he never lost a game or the team never played badly under him, or we never had trophyless seasons, or we didn’t get knocked out of competitions by lesser teams. Well, news flash people, that all happened.

DAN: For me, the whole parking the bus thing is fine to an extent. It’s fair enough against the likes of City or Spurs, sitting deep to counter. The thing is, for me, when we play the lesser teams, there is no swagger, no confidence. For a few games since the Liverpool game I have looked at games we should win and haven’t been confident we will win convincingly. I’m not saying we should win every game against the so called lesser sides, but we have players in this team who can and want to play football and take risks.

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