Mourinho: Mkhitaryan will be top player

Jose Mourinho has suggested Henrikh Mkhitaryan needs time to adapt to English football, but the Manchester United manager has backed his signing to become a “top player” for the Reds.

The Armenian has not featured since the Manchester derby in the Premier League on 10 September and that is partly due to him suffering an injury just prior to the recent international break in October.

Mourinho confirmed during Friday’s press conference at the Aon Training Complex that Mkhitaryan is no longer injured, telling reporters that he is working hard on his fitness behind the scenes.

“He is not injured,” the manager said. “Sometimes I confuse the word ‘fit’ in the English language. Sometimes you can say that it is ‘not injured’, but you could also say that you are in great condition and ready to compete. That is different for me as we use different words in Portuguese for the different situations. Mkhitaryan is not injured, he is training with the team 100 per cent.

Asked if it takes some players longer to adapt to the English game, Mourinho continued: “I think so, yes. Some players find it very easy whereas others need more time. They need time to feel the intensity, the aggression, the game without the ball and the competitiveness.

“The realities are often different, particularly in terms of the competitiveness. It doesn’t matter who you are against, you have to play at the highest level otherwise you will not be able to do it. Micki needs time to become the top player he knows he can be.”

Mourinho expressed his confidence in Mkhitaryan when expanding on the topic that dominated Friday’s press conference, pointing to two of his former players at Chelsea and Real Madrid who required time to blossom in their new surroundings. “I think Micki will work here for sure,” he said.

“I don’t like to speak about players from other clubs because I don’t want to be misinterpreted, but I don’t think he’ll mind. A player who had a problem to play when he first arrived was Willian. He went through a process and then, after a few months, he became a top player. Then, when we won the championship, he was phenomenal and still is. That is just an example.

“Similarly, Di Maria had to learn a lot about his game when he came into Madrid from Portugal. Sometimes this is what happens. It happens with defenders, but it is often easier for them to adapt than attackers. Some go straight to success and others it takes more time.

“In Micki’s case the process was interrupted by injury, which does not help the process of evolution. Being out for a month meant he has had to go through the process of getting match-fit, then once he has that he needs the competitive level to do it. We believe him and, sooner or later, there will be no problem.”

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