Jose Mourinho says it will take time for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to cope with the rigours of Premier League life, but has no doubt the attacking midfielder will flourish at Manchester United.
So outstanding for Borussia Dortmund in recent seasons, expectations were naturally high when the 27-year-old pitched up at Old Trafford in a £26.3million deal.
Mkhitaryan, the third signing of the summer, penned a four-year deal with the option to extend for a fifth, but after just a matter of months there are questions over the Armenian’s future.
While a thigh injury played a part in restricting him to just 104 minutes of Premier League football, his return to fitness has not brought with it a recall to the squad.
Mkhitaryan’s omission from Wednesday’s EFL Cup win against Manchester City – the last team he lined-up against back on September 10 – fuelled speculation about his position, but Mourinho insists it is merely a matter of sharpness keeping him out.
“He’s not injured,” the United boss said. “Sometimes I confuse the meaning ‘fit’ in the English language.
“‘Fit’ sometimes you have the view is if you are not injured and sometimes ‘fit’ is in great condition and ready to compete. That’s a different thing for me.
“In Portuguese, we use different words for the different situations. Mkhitaryan is not injured, he is training with the team 100 per cent. Some players, their profile they are really adapted to come and to play.
“Some other players need more time – time to feel it, to feel the intensity and the aggression, the game without the ball, the competitiveness.
“Does Mkhi needs time to become the top player we know he can be? Yes, I think he needs.”