Five facts on new Manchester United signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan after the Armenia international joined the Premier League giants from Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday for a fee worth a reported £26 million ($34 million, 30 million euros):
Klopp a ‘madman’
Mkhitaryan’s description of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp — who persuaded Borussia Dortmund to splash out an eyebrow raising £25million (27.5m euros at the time) in 2013 — as a ‘madman’ makes one wonder what assessment he will come up with for Jose Mourinho. Mkhitaryan told the Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of the Europa League match with Liverpool last season that he was allowed to express himself more freely under Klopp’s successor Thomas Tuchel. “With Klopp, he was a football madman: pressure and counter-attack,” he said. “Instead, Tuchel has changed our lives. Now we command the game and I have more freedom to attack. Thanks to him I now make myself more useful.” Klopp was rather more complimentary about the player saying it was no wonder Armenians churned out so many great chess players. “They’re thinkers, they’re hard workers, they graft. And if things aren’t working out, then the problem lies with you somewhere – you start to blame yourself,” said Klopp last season.
Hits rich seam with ‘Miners’
Mkhitaryan progressed hugely at Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk ‘The Miners’, who bought him in 2010 from city rivals Metalurh Donetsk for six million euros. He prospered there and both himself and Shakhtar did superbly well out of his big money move to Dortmund three years later. He began his career at Armenian side Pyunik but gained some valuable experience in both playing style and living away from home when aged 17 he went to Brazilian side Sao Paulo to their youth academy in an agreement between the two clubs. He learnt Portuguese — he now speaks six languages including English — there which helped considerably when he joined Shakhtar as they had a stable of Brazilian players.
Professional and complete player
Veteran coach Mircea Lucescu who signed him for Shakthar eulogised about him to The Guardian back in 2012. “Mkhitaryan is a professional footballer through and through,” Lucescu said. The Romanian raved about how Mkhitaryan had displayed great maturity for someone so young when he signed him aged just 21. “He managed to build his relations with the team-mates in a way that allows him authority on and off the pitch. It wasn’t easy for him from the start, but his integration was speeded up by his high level of football intelligence. Working with him is fun. He’s a complete player.”
Like Shakespeare’s troubled hero ‘Hamlet’ Mkhitaryan misses his late father, also called Hamlet, hugely. He was also a professional footballer who spent several years in France but returned home to Armenia, whom he represented twice once they gained their independence, but sadly died in 1996 when his son was just seven years of age. Mkhitaryan poured his heart out to Armpress, the national press agency, three years ago about the vacuum his father had left in his life. “People say that my style of play resembles that of my father so you could say I have inherited my paternal genes,” said Mkhitaryan, whose middle name is also Hamlet. “You cannot imagine how strongly I would like my father to be with me now. If my father was alive everything would be different. Notwithstanding he would give me advice from a professional point of view.”
Scoring to the music of time
Shakhtar Donetsk honour their goalscorers by playing a piece of music each time they hit the back of the net and Mkhitaryan’s musical entree was the Armenian war dance ‘Sabre Dance’. It wasn’t the first time the music has been used as an anthem, the NHL franchise Buffalo Sabres having played it. It is unlikely to be a trait deployed by Mourinho, so he may have to resort to listening to it on his headphones.