Former Manchester United player Henrikh Mkhitaryan, someone who played a pivotal role in the team’s Europa League success of 2017, is set to return to Old Trafford tonight (Thursday) with Roma.
The Armenian midfielder played 63 games and scored 13 goals for the Reds between 2016 and 2018, before making the move to Arsenal.
His highlight of that stint undoubtedly came in the 2017 Europa League final, when Mkhitaryan scored in our 2-0 victory over Ajax in Stockholm.
Ahead of the first leg of our semi-final showdown with Roma, Henrikh has spoken to club media about the wonderful European run four seasons ago.
“It was a good time. It was a great moment for me and for the club,” the Armenian reflected.
“We all knew that we wanted to win the trophy, but it was very hard because we had to face good teams – especially in the semi-final. We suffered a bit with Celta Vigo, especially in the last game at Old Trafford when in the last minute we conceded the goal and then they had a clear chance to score, but we were lucky and reached the final.
”After that, the final was easier because we knew how we were going to play against Ajax so we didn’t have any real difficulties. We knew what we had to do, how we had to attack, how we had to defend and at the end of the day we won the trophy and I scored, so I was very happy – not only that we won but that we qualified for the Champions League, so it was great.
“As part of that we won other trophies, as everyone will remember – we won the Community Shield and the Carabao Cup too.”
The triumph in the Swedish capital four years ago meant United completed the set of available trophies to the club and, for Mkhitaryan, the occasion was one he can recall in precise detail.
“The day of the game was quite emotional because it was my first European final,” he said.
“I was very, very nervous but excited as well. Usually I get to sleep on the day of the game in the afternoon, but that day I couldn’t sleep at all, maybe I had the adrenaline, maybe the thoughts in my mind that the only thing I wanted to do was win the game and then of course I had my family members and my friends coming to Sweden to watch the game, which was another pressure on me, but I was very happy to score and to win the game.
”My uncle even said to me that we were going to win 2-0 and I was going to score the second goal, but he said it would be in the last minute! Thank God, I scored at the beginning of the second half, so then it was just about making history. You can see in the pictures and the videos from afterwards, what it meant to us all.
Now the former Red is heading back to Manchester in search of another place in the Europa League final, but says the task at hand could not be more challenging.
“Well, we’re preparing ourselves, getting ready for the game and we know it won’t be easy,” the former Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal man admitted.
“There are no easy games so if you want to win the final, you have to face the biggest clubs. We know that it’s going to be a hard game for us and United is in good shape now, but we’re not going to think about that when the game starts; we’re going to think about how we’re going to play and what we have to do to succeed in the tie.”
The Roma no.77 has played for the opposition side at the Theatre of Dreams for the Gunners but says it will still be special to return to the stadium again on Thursday, even with the absence of supporters.
“It has been a great feeling for me before to come back to Old Trafford and get a nice reception,” Henrikh said.
“I think playing without supporters is a bit strange. You feel their absence and it doesn’t seem like an official game. Sometimes you play and it’s like a friendly game and sometimes where there is a moment that the supporters have to push you, but you don’t have that push. It’s missing. Without them you cannot watch football, cannot play football the same; it’s a different feeling.”