Henrikh Mkhitaryan underlined his growing importance to Manchester United by scoring in a 1-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday, sealing the team’s third Premier League victory since August.
In the biggest win for United manager Jose Mourinho since his arrival at Old Trafford, Mkhitaryan raced onto Ander Herrera’s through-ball and drove home a rising shot in the 29th minute.
The Armenia international’s match ended prematurely when he was carried off on a stretcher in the 85th with an apparent left ankle injury following a foul by Danny Rose, but United managed to close out the game – something the team has struggled to do this season.
Sixth-place United moved three points behind Spurs and six behind Manchester City, which occupies the fourth and final Champions League qualification berth after 15 games.
Mkhitaryan has been slowly integrated into United’s first team since his move from Borussia Dortmund last summer, with Mourinho keen to ease the Armenian into the demands of English soccer.
Now he is settled, Mkhitaryan is looking the part. And the pace and quick-thinking he showed for his goal was something United has been lacking.
As soon as Herrera pounced on a wayward pass from Harry Kane in the center of the field, Mkhitaryan was off, running in behind Spurs center back Jan Vertonghen with left back Rose stranded upfield. Herrera’s pass was perfect and Mkhitaryan took it on before unleashing a fierce shot that flew past Lloris.
In his last four games, Mkhitaryan has scored two goals and set up two others. His injury may set him back once again, however.
Meanwhile, the Premier League has now seen players from 96 different nationalities score goals since its inception in 1992.
It was a big win for United and Mourinho, whose record against the so-called heavyweights of the Premier League has been poor since arriving at Old Trafford.
United had the better of the chances in both halves, with Paul Pogba particularly lively in crashing a free kick against the crossbar and having two shots well saved by Lloris.
Christian Eriksen was Tottenham’s best player and from one of his free kicks, an unmarked Victor Wanyama misdirected a header from the edge of the six-yard box in the 55th.
Spurs didn’t have a more clear-cut opening for the rest of the match.