Do Manchester United need a new no.10 to improve the team?
By Joe Harker
Manchester United started the season in dazzling form, winning several games 4-0 and playing some impressive attacking football. At the heart of much of it was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as United's attacking midfielder showed a bit of "Mkhi magic" and registered five assists in the opening three league games, as many as he managed in all competitions last season. However, he hasn't had an assist in the Premier League since August and hasn't scored or assisted in any competitions since September.
In recent games United have looked stilted in attack, particularly when it has come to linking the play from midfield to attack. Star striker Romelu Lukaku is struggling for goals but he hasn't always been given a good supply of chances and has often looked isolated. A no.10 like Mkhitaryan should be the man to link the play and bring the strikers into the game, but that has not happened and some fans are concerned that he is not playing well enough. There have been some recent big games against the other top teams in the Premier League and Mkhitaryan has sometimes gone missing when the team needed him most.
The Daily Express has compared him to another attacking midfielder who transferred from Borussia Dortmund to Old Trafford and ultimately did not do enough: Shinji Kagawa. Although both players are clearly talented, both have had trouble consistently displaying that talent at United. Mkhitaryan has turned in some excellent performances and was a key player in winning the Europa League last season, but the club needs a more consistent player.
There are potential targets that United could go for. Although a move for Antoine Griezmann fell through in the summer, it seems likely that he will leave Atletico Madrid next year and United could revive their interest. Griezmann can play as a striker, winger and no.10 so his arrival could make him a replacement for Mkhitaryan.
Another possible addition is Mesut Ozil, who could leave Arsenal on a free transfer in the new year and would almost certainly take the no.10 role if he joined United. His range of passing would be a big asset, particularly if Paul Pogba is not available, and he has played for Jose Mourinho before. However, Ozil has also gone missing in big games and United may be wary of that.
However, the problem with the team may not be with the no.10 position. The main catalyst for the decline in attacking play appears to be the injury that has kept central midfielder Paul Pogba out of the side. Pogba was integral to the way United played and appeared to link up well with Mkhitaryan. Perhaps what they need is a backup player who can replace him and what he brings to the team, as the squad currently appears to have no other players who can have the same impact.