Despite having started the 2016-17 campaign with a lot of promise and some record-breaking stats, Henrikh Mkhitaryan seems to have fallen from grace spectacularly.
Not only has he found it difficult to make it to Manchester United’s starting lineups lately, but Jose Mourinho has recently revealed that the Armenian international’s failure to break into several matchday squads has been due to the presence of more in-form and able players in the roster.
By the look of things at present, it is likely that the former Borussia Dortmund man will follow the footsteps of Shinji Kagawa at the Theatre of Dreams, and soon head out the exit door to seek pastures anew instead of enduring prolonged spells on the sidelines.
With that possibility in mind, let us take a look at the 5 players that could potentially replace Henrikh Mkhitaryan in Mourinho’s lineup:
1. Mesut Ozil
Perhaps the most obvious one on the list thanks to the bombardment of reports from the media.
The German international has been consistently linked with a reunion with Mourinho at Old Trafford, with sources now claiming that the Portuguese is intent on pushing Mkhitaryan out the exit door to make room as well as free up wages for the Arsenal playmaker.
With his sublime vision and genius passing ability, Ozil would fit into the number 10 position at United right away, and take over the creative department alongside Paul Pogba – something Mkhitaryan has failed to do.
2. Antoine Griezmann
The versatile Frenchman has been linked with the Red Devils for quite a while now, and with Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone recently admitting that he would allow Griezmann to depart from the Spanish capital come summer, this transfer is finally beginning to appear on the horizon.
With the 26-year-old possessing an eye for spectacular passes as well as the capability of scoring loads of goals, he would thrive in that pocket behind the striker, and enjoy every bit of donning his idol David Beckham’s legendary number 7 shirt.
However, whether Griezmann unites with his best friend Pogba in Manchester depends on how well Mourinho and co. fare in convincing the ex-Real Sociedad star to snub Barcelona, and make his peace with the poor weather of England to complete this switch.
3. Paulo Dybala
Perhaps the most improbable name on this list, but a possibility nonetheless; Dybala remains one of the best forwards in Europe, which could precisely end up being the reason why Juventus would do whatever it takes to keep hold of him.
However, United could find some optimism in the fact that not only did the Argentine recently admit the possibility of his departure from Turin in the near future, but he has also been far from his best in terms of commitment and fitness – which led to boss Massimiliano Allegri dropping him to the bench during the Derby d’Italia against Inter Milan last week.
But there is no denying the 24-year-old’s world-class ability as a second striker, and Mourinho would surely be prepared to tweak his system in order to accommodate a player of Dybala’s calibre in his starting lineup.
4. Jesse Lingard
Ever since Manchester United’s 2-0 away win over Swansea late in October, wherein Jesse Lingard bagged a brace to send the Reds through to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup, Mourinho has been deploying the Englishman in a new role.
The United academy graduate has occupied a free role behind the striker many-a-times since, and thanks to his clever and relentless movement, his overall performances have improved drastically, as evident from his major involvement in the league wins over Watford and Arsenal.
The recently-turned 25-year-old looks like a brand new player whilst occupying the number 10 position, and if he continues to perform in the same manner until the arrival of the summer transfer window, there remains a distant possibility of him cementing the spot as his own.
5. Paul Pogba
Irrespective of his price tag, haircuts, and antics off the pitch, there is no denying the fact that Paul Pogba is right there among the top footballers in the world. The man possesses a divine ability to create chances, and his impressive goals have also been a frequent occurrence.
Meanwhile, a host of talented central midfielders are already bound to Manchester United, with young talents like Andreas Pereira and Timothy Fosu-Mensah also set to return from their loan spells at the end of the campaign.
However, Mourinho remains interested in bringing in more reinforcements in the middle of the park, with the Red Devils currently being linked with Monaco’s Fabinho, and also a potential world-record move for Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Such depth in central midfield could very well lead to Pogba moving further up the pitch.
Nemanja Matic’s arrival has already boosted the Frenchman’s attacking stats, but with two central midfielders playing behind him, the 24-year-old would receive total freedom to focus solely on attack and, in the process, become one of the best number 10s in the game.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s absence from the pitch has not affected Mourinho’s men too much, and with a fair number of replacements already lined up, Manchester United evidently look more than capable of coping with the Armenian’s departure.
Written by Kunal Kambli
An introverted grammar pedantic who worships football and loves writing about it. Part of the BlameFootball team since 2016.