(Reuters) - Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s attitude towards Henrikh Mkhitaryan seems to have thawed after the playmaker chose a sub-zero night in Ukraine on Thursday to score a dazzling first goal for the club.
The Armenian endured a prolonged exile from the first team earlier this season and questions were being asked about whether he would ever find favour with Mourinho following the player’s 25 million pounds ($31.46 million) move from Borussia Dortmund in the close season.
However, Mhkitaryan has now started four of the last five games in all competitions and continued his resurgence by dribbling through the heart of the defence to score United’s opener in a 2-0 Europa League win over Zorya Luhansk.
That was enough to send the visitors into the last 32 and the performance of the former Shakhtar Donetsk player brought a smile to the face of his manager.
”It was a strong mentality,“ Mourinho told reporters when asked about Mkhitaryan’s attitude since joining United. ”He was determined to fight against his difficult adaptation.
“He worked hard physically and tactically, the talent was there, we knew that when we bought him. Now he’s playing good in the Premier League, Europa League and EFL (League) Cup and now the goal means a little more happiness for him so I‘m very pleased.”
United finished second in Group A behind Fenerbahce and can now focus on the Premier League where their form has been patchy.
Mourinho’s men are sixth in the table, 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea. They host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday when Mkhitaryan will hope to get another chance to shine.
Writing by Toby Davis; editing by Tony Jimenez