Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Wayne Rooney were stand out performers for Manchester United on Thursday night as the club put their previous average performances in the Europa League behind them. United avenged their earlier 1-0 loss to Feyenoord back in September by comprehensively beating the Dutch side 4-0 to take control of their own destiny in the competition. With a draw or a win away against Zorya Luhansk in their last group game, United will move through to the knockout phase of the competition.
Wayne Rooney made the headlines for his play on the field scoring United’s opener on the night as he latched onto Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s sweet through ball and scored his 39th goal in Europe for the Red-Devils. Rooney also assisted on Juan Mata’s goal as the United captain turned in a fine display.
Perhaps of more importance was the play of Armenian captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was making only his second start for United after his big money summer move from Borussia Dortmund. Mkhitaryan’s inability to break into Jose Mourinho’s first XI, with the exception of his ill-fated start in the Manchester Derby earlier on in the year, has been well documented. Some United fans were beginning to think that the creative attacker was simply not going to work out at Old Trafford but his performance on Thursday night has shown that there may well be reasons for optimism surrounding the impact the Armenian international can have on the British game. Mkhitaryan showed the ability to beat men with skill and was a constant goal-threat on the night firing 6 shots at the Feyenoord goal and while he did not score he linked up well with his team-mates and seemed very comfortable in the side.
Clearly the Old Trafford faithful were more than happy with the performances of Rooney and Mkhitaryan as when they both left the field on 82 minutes they did so to a standing ovation. Speaking after the game Mkhitaryan had this to say as reported by the BBC:
“It was a pleasure to play again. It’s been very difficult watching the team from the side but you have to have passion and work hard to try and take your next chance,”. Plus when questioned if it was a fresh start for him, he said: “I hope so.”
So it seems that the reasons for his signing in the first place are finally becoming apparent and United can only hope that this is the beginning of great things from Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the club can certainly do with the goals he is capable of scoring and creating. It will be most interesting to see if he has done enough to merit a chance either from the start or from the bench against West Ham on the weekend in the Premier League – we will wait and see with a great deal of anticipation.