Armenia international Henrikh Mkhitaryan has insisted his difficult first season in the Premier League has improved him as a player.
The 28-year-old experienced a baptism of fire on his arrival in England last season, with United boss Jose Mourinho subbing the £26m signing off at half-time during his first Manchester derby at Old Trafford in September, and then dropping the playmaker from the first team for almost two months - but Mkhitaryan has insisted he has come out of the experience better.
Reports persisted that Mourinho was unconvinced of the former Shakhtar Donetsk star’s quality and that United would seek to cut their losses in the January transfer window.
However, the former Dortmund star was superb on his return over the Christmas period, burying THAT scorpion kick against Sunderland and finishing the season with a creditable haul of four goals and one assist.
Quizzed on his reaction to last season’s difficulties, the Armenia international skipper said his initial struggles proved to be beneficial, making him stronger as both a player and as a person;
“Last year, with my difficulties, they helped me a lot,” he said. “I could stay stronger in my mind, like mentally. I never said that I had hard times here.
“It shows you are strong enough to win them over or not. I’ve done everything to work hard, to show everyone I can play, and that I can do my best for the team.”
The Red Devils prioritised winning the Europa League to secure Champions League football over a top four finish last season, and Mkhitaryan accepts he’ll have to work even harder with the added rigours of midweek football to contend with next term.
“It was a good year for us, for me as well, because we won three trophies. But I know, for this upcoming season, I can do better and better. The manager in general is saying we need to do more. Everyone understands that because we know this season is going to be a little bit harder, because we’re going to play in the Champions League.
“We’re working very hard on it and we are sure we can have good results."