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Mkhitaryan in action during pre-season.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the missing piece for Manchester United

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Protracted transfer sagas, inflated transfer fees, and shamelessly theatrical posturing from agents. 

The summer transfer window is truly in full effect, but in a period dominated by the long-running Paul Pogba episode, one signing appears to have flown almost completely under the radar.

Manchester United's acquisition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan - while not receiving quite the same fanfare as that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the imminent arrival of Paul Pogba - may well prove to be their most important move of the summer.

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In the post-Ferguson era, Manchester United fans have found themselves watching a middling side meandering in and out of Champions League football, showcasing what has at times been an insipid and uninspiring brand of football.

Criticisms of the team have come thick and fast, but the general consensus among fans and pundits alike is that their troubles have stemmed from an unwillingness to take risks in attack.

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Much of United's attacking success last season came about as a result of the direct, gung-ho approach of their effervescent top scorer Anthony Martial. Towards the business end of the campaign, the French youngster was a vital attacking outlet, particularly on the counter where his acceleration would turn defence into attack with devastating urgency.

It is clearly in this area then that United need to focus their efforts. On many occasions last term, United would find themselves in comfortable control of games, dominating possession (56% average) and passing the ball around with confidence (82% pass completion). 

The fans' boredom came as a result of an inability, or possible unwillingness, to bridge the gap between leisurely midfield control and dangerous attacking play, and numerous players were scapegoated for their apparent reticence to take risks in the opposition half. 

Enter Mkhitaryan.

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United - Pre Season Friendly

It was surprising, in new United manager Jose Mourinho's inaugural press conference, to hear the talk of a desire to recruit "specialists" - interpreted by many as an indication that versatile jacks-of-all-trades such as Daley Blind and Phil Jones would be hard-pressed for game time. 

The signing of Mkhitaryan, however, appears to jar with this assertion. The Armenian is effectively a "False 10" - as effective running the wings as he is operating as a playmaker through the middle. 

Blessed with two good feet and abundant pace, Mkhitaryan appears to be a safe bet to be a hit at most sides around Europe, so it may seem no great gamble to suggest that he will be a success at Old Trafford. On closer inspection, however, it appears to be the perfect fit.

The forward-thinking Mkhitaryan is something of a hybrid between Martial and Juan Mata: posing a double threat to defenders with his ability to both burst past his marker and thread a pass beyond the defensive line for his fellow forwards. 

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The statistics speak for themselves. 11 goals and 15 assists in the Bundesliga last season. This combination of goalscoring potency and creative ability allows Mkhitaryan to shoulder some of the burden that weighed heavy on the shoulders of Martial last term and gives United another outlet when probing for a penetrative pass through a resolute backline.

So, while Ibrahimovic dominated the headlines for the early summer and the Pogba circus appears to be reaching its crescendo, it would be foolish to overlook the £28m acquisition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Watch this space.

Who will be the better signing for Manchester United? Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!

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Topics:
Wayne Rooney
Manchester United
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Football
Premier League
Ryan Giggs
Cristiano Ronaldo
Jose Mourinho
Henrikh Mkhitaryan
David Beckham

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