José Mourinho has praised Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s start to the season and admitted the forward’s progress could have been quicker last season if he and the Armenian had understood each other better.
Mkhitaryan has began United’s 4-0 wins over West Ham United and Swansea City in the No10 berth, impressing in each outing. Last term Mkhitaryan did not make his full United debut until Manchester City’s visit on 10 September and disappointed the manager enough for him to be replaced at half-time.
Asked about the 28-year-old’s form now Mourinho said: “He understands me and I understand him. Beginning of [last] season, if he had understood me better he would start better. If I had understood him better, probably I would have helped him in a faster way than I did.
“But we spent a lot of time together, working together, learning each other. I know him well. He knows me well. The second part was good for him. With his talent, this season [will be] even better.”
Mourinho offered a similar analysis of Anthony Martial, who has scored in both league games after coming on as a substitute. “Again better,” said Mourinho. “When you are blessed with talent, you have to fulfil and explore it. You cannot be happy with just glimpses. That I am not going to change. I want more and more and more. He has all the qualities for that. He understands me better too.
“Our personal relationship is good. I don’t think player-manager relationship is fundamental but it is an added good thing to have a good relation. I hope he will be better this season than last.”
On Saturday Leicester City travel to Old Trafford for the late kick-off. The 2016 champions have started the season well, losing narrowly to Arsenal at the Emirates and beating Brighton at home. Mourinho said: “It is the same team as they were two seasons ago [when they were champions]. After what they did, [we could probably] could feel that they would not be champions a second consecutive season. Are they going to be champions again? Honestly, I don’t think so. All the other teams are not all going to fail.”
Mourinho welcomed the news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a one-year deal to return to the club. “He won’t be ready for the group phase of the Champions League,” he said. “No chance of that. Hopefully he can play in the knockout stage but for that we have to finish in the top two of the group.
“I don’t want to think about when he is back. I don’t even ask. I don’t speak with him or medical team. I just think he will be extra man for us in the second part of the season. The second part is normally January when the transfer window reopens.
“But I have no idea at all. I think the right way is not even to think about it. Let him do his work, step by step and come back when he is ready.”
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