Red Devils boss says midfielder would have enjoyed a better start if he ‘understood me better’ after joining from Borussia Dortmund
JOSE MOURINHO has revealed how his relationship with Henrikh Mkhitaryan was initially rocky after the midfielder joined Manchester United last year.
The Armenian had a difficult first season at Old Trafford but has played a key role in United’s impressive start to the new campaign.
Mkhitaryan has provided half of United’s assists in their first two Premier League games this season – setting up four goals already, compared to just one last term.
And Mourinho has revealed how this is the result of an improved relationship between manager and player.
Mourinho said: “I think he (Mkhitaryan) understands me and to be honest I understand him.
“At the start of last season if he understands me better he would have started better.
“If I understand him better probably I would help him in a faster way than I did.
“But we have spent our time together, I know him well, he knows me well and the second part of the season was good for him and with his talent I believe his season will be even better.”
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Mkhitaryan arrived at United with a big reputation after joining on a four-year deal from Borussia Dortmund for a fee believed to be £30million.
He was considered one of the Bundesliga’s most potent attacking midfielders, having scored 41 goals in 140 appearances for Dortmund.
But he was initially held back by Mourinho, who felt he was not ready for the Premier League and only performed well in the Europa League.
The 28-year-old suffered the shame of being hauled off at half-time during the Manchester derby, as United trailed City 2-1, last September.
He was not even used as a substitute in the next eight league matches, a period in the wilderness that lasted nearly three months.
This season Mkhitaryan has started in United’s opening two league games, both of which have been won 4-0.
And while the Armenia captain is yet to score, he has already provided four assists – compared to just one in 24 appearances last season.
Premier League stats also show that Mkhitaryan has averaged 51.1 passes per match this season, compared to 32.3 last term.
Mourinho also revealed he has greater faith in Anthony Martial this season.
The French winger was told by Mourinho he was failing to take his first team chances last term.
But this season Martial has come on and scored in both games and is pushing for a start against Leicester on Saturday.
Mourinho said: “When you have some talents you cannot waste it.
“I think when you are blessed with that talent, you have to exploit it and not be happy with just glimpses of that talent.
“I’m not going to change, I want more and more and more from him.
“He understands me better too and the personal relationship is good.
“I don’t think that’s fundamental but it’s an added good thing to have a good relationship, so, again, Anthony I hope is going to be better this season than last.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho also revealed that Wayne Rooney rang him the night before he announced his retirement from international football to tell him of his decision.
The United boss said: “He told me the night before, I am nobody to agree or disagree, I just listen to his reasons and I understand his reasons. He has done it for Everton and for his family.”