Borussia Dortmund could finally decided to cash in to Henrikh Mkhitaryan and allow the attacking midfielder to leave for Manchester United in a deal worth a reported £32 million (€38m).
That is a steep price for United to pay for a player who is out of contract next summer, but Jose Mourinho is said to desperate to add the midfielder as United look for more attacking invention.
Mkhitaryan has already agreed personal terms with United and will undergo a medical within the next week. An interesting twist to the story is that Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic share the same agent, Mino Raiola, who also happens to be Paul Pogba’s agent.
Mkhitaryan joined Dortmund from Shakhtar Dontesk in 2013 and this year enjoyed his best season in the Bundesliga to date, scoring 19 goals and providing 25 assists.
Style of play
A creative attacking midfielder, Mkhitaryan registered 11 goals and 15 assists last season in 31 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund, being voted the Players’ Player of the Season in the process as they finished second behind Bayern Munich.
While naturally more of a No 10, the Armenian also has the speed and skill to play out wide – once saying he would have been a sprinter were he not a footballer – and the calmness and composure to play deeper as a central midfielder.
How would he fit in?
That adaptability will be highly valued by Jose Mourinho, who has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent years and tends to deploy a fluid attacking trio behind a main striker who can all rotate roles.
One of Manchester United’s problems last season (among a host of others) was their system often looking too rigid during games, and a player like Mkhitaryan could certainly provide a solution to that.
Since his time at Inter Milan, Mourinho has often employed a formation which allows for a No 10, with Wesley Sneijder at the San Siro then Mesut Ozil at Real Madrid arguably being the focal points of those sides.
During his second stint at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho lacked a consistent central playmaker, allowing both Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata to leave the club, two criticised decisions that left him with Oscar as his only natural player in that role.
Manchester United are traditionally associated with width and have struggled in recent years to adapt to playing with a No 10 – with a previous signing from Borussia Dortmund in Shinji Kagawa failing to make an impact at Old Trafford – but the imminent recruitment of Mkhitaryan suggests Mourinho is likely to persevere with his favoured style rather than revert to a more classic Red Devils formation.
Much like it did at Chelsea, it looks like Mourinho’s arrival could spell the end of Mata’s time at the club.
With Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney all likely to command starting places next season, and with Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also set to arrive, it is hard to see where Mata could fit in.
Other men likely to be concerned are Ander Herrera – a fans’ favourite who failed to win over Louis van Gaal – and Marouane Fellaini. Both were regularly deployed as the most advanced midfielder for United last season, but now face an uncertain future at Old Trafford.
Should Mourinho stick with 4-2-3-1, then he could perhaps line up like this: