Henrikh Mkhitaryan heads into tonight’s Europa League Round of 16 second leg against FC Rostov with praise from Manchester United team-mate Chris Smalling ringing in his ears, according to the club’s official website.
The Armenian has been instrumental in the Reds’ European progress, scoring against Zorya Luhansk, Saint-Etienne and in the first game at Rostov, and is expected to be a key figure as Jose Mourinho’s men look to reach the quarter-finals of a competition the club has never won.
After being withdrawn in the wake of Ander Herrera’s dismissal at Chelsea on Monday, a tactical sacrifice, the clever schemer will hopefully be raring to go against the Russians at Old Trafford.
When asked by tonight’s United Review, the official matchday programme, if everybody is glad Mkhitaryan has returned from injury, Smalling replied: “Yeah, we are – it is great. He had missed a few games but he came back and had an instant impact like he had never been away. It is great to have such great attacking options and Micki has been brilliant for us, because he is a threat that is very hard to defend against.
“I think it could be a coincidence [he’s done so well in Europe] but, as a player, he is very unpredictable. Every player in the world knows who Henrikh Mkhitaryan is. But it is one thing to know him and another to deal with him. I am lucky that he is on our team and I am not playing against him.
“He is often thinking one step ahead [in training], whether it is a pass or a dribble. He is deceptively quick as well and he is probably quicker with the ball than he is without, which is rare for a lot of players. He is a great, great asset for us.”