Henrikh Mkhitaryan driven by tragic premature death of his father

Heinrich Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is driven on by the premature death of his father, whom the Manchester United forward believes is “looking down from the sky” on him.

The Armenia captain was José Mourinho’s second summer signing, joining from Borussia Dortmund for around £30m. Mkhitaryan’s dad, Hamlet, was also a footballer, who played for some of his career in France, but died aged 33 because of a brain tumour.

“He was my drive, so he was my motivation because when I was young he was playing football professionally and I was always dreaming to go with him to the training ground,” Mkhitaryan said at United’s Adidas kit launch in China. “It was my dream to continue his work and to also be a football player.

“He was 33 years old, I was seven years old at the time so, yes, it is a pity but that’s life. The life continues and I hope he is proud looking at me from the sky so I try to do everything to make him proud.

“I’m sad because I think he could have helped me with his words and his support, but that’s life. I’m trying to do everything with my family members, my friends, who are watching me every day, every game, so they are trying to help me to say what I did wrong and what I did well and I try to improve myself.”

His father’s death was difficult for Mkhitaryan. “On one side, yes it made me grow up quicker,” he said. “And on one side no because it is very difficult when you grow up without a father because in the family you don’t have a real man who can give you direction, discipline.

“In one case my mother was my mother and father, so I am thankful to her and I am thankful to all the people who were next to me at the time in a hard moment so the life continues and I am trying to learn something new from the people and getting into football. My mother worked in Armenia Football Federation and my sister, she works for Uefa, so we are a football family.

“I watched many times [footage of him] when I was young but now the football changes a lot so it is not necessary to watch a game [to learn from him]. You can watch just to remember the way he played, to remember that he was judging himself on the pitch but watching the game saying: ‘You can learn something new’ [is not necessary] because now the football has become more faster, more quicker, more stronger, so they’re just memories.”

At Dortmund Mkhitaryan operated in a wide attacking position but he also played as a No10 when at Shakhtar Donestk and for the national team, whom he captains.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter,” Mkhitaryan said. “I like to play attacking, like a winger, or an attacking midfielder, so it depends on the coach, where he’s looking at me for which position.

“It’s always [been] my dream to play Premier League. And finally I could fulfil my wish, my dream, and I am very happy to wear this shirt. United’s one of the teams I was supporting when I was a child – I was always proud of the way they were playing and because Manchester United was always a big club – so it’s a dream to play for this club, and first for me as well when I was a child I was dreaming to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world.”

Mkhitaryan was voted Bundesliga player of the year but he is modest about his ambition. “I never promise something, I always say that I will try,” he said. “Because if you promise something and you don’t do you will always be under pressure, so that is why I’m trying to say I will do all my best and I will try to help Manchester because for me this is a new challenge and I like difficulties. I like to win the difficulties because when you win the difficulties it makes you stronger, so I’m trying to do everything to come up to a new level.

“It doesn’t matter if they buy me for, I don’t know, 38 million or 40 million, I am not guaranteed to play the games, so I am trying to do my best during the training to earn this place to play and then we will see because I don’t think I will play every game, depending on the tactical situation, depending on the opponent. But I will do everything to try and help the team.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jamie Jackson in Shenzhen, for The Guardian on Tuesday 26th July 2016 22.30 Europe/London

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