Henrikh Mkhitaryan has lifted Manchester United ahead of their Nissan Super Sunday showdown with Liverpool, says Jamie Redknapp.
With nine wins in a row, it feels like Manchester United have hit form at a good time. Before their turnaround, Jose Mourinho looked really unhappy and I was beginning to get worried about them, but in the last few weeks he has been transformed.
Live Nissan Super Sunday
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been a big part of it. He had a difficult start to life at Old Trafford, but I think back to their game against Tottenham in December as a big moment in their season.
I remember covering that game and thinking Spurs could easily go there and get a draw, but Mkhitaryan came into the United team and he lifted the place. He added that extra quality and scored an excellent goal.
Everyone has their own opinion and Jamie Carragher said at the time that it was good management by Mourinho to hold Mkhitaryan back, but I felt the opposite. I thought it showed what position they might have been in if he had been playing.
United have won seven consecutive games since then and you can see how Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic enjoy playing with him. Having two world-class players is great, but if you have another one it takes the pressure off them.
Mourinho’s demeanour has changed as a result. When your manager is down and he looks like he’s not satisfied with things, the dressing room is not a happy place to be.
He has taken the shackles off and got United playing the kind of expansive, exciting football the fans want to see. His mood is much better. It has transmitted to the team, and Mkhitaryan is a large part of that.
Half price Sky Sports
Upgrade to Sky Sports now and get 9 months half price. Hurry, offer ends January 16th!
The Liverpool game is huge. If United can win they will be just two points behind them. They won’t just be thinking about the top four, they will be asking themselves, ‘Can we go and win the league?’
They have certainly got the squad for it. You’ve only got to look at their 4-0 win over Reading in the FA Cup. They were able to play a really strong team, whereas Liverpool had to play a lot of kids and drew 0-0 with Plymouth.
That shows you the options United have. When you have players like Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Athony Martial who can come into the team, you have options who can make a real difference.
With the players they have they should be looking to win the title, and this is a good chance for them to lay down a marker on Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have a few problems. They have not won in their last three and Sadio Mane is proving a huge loss since going to the Africa Nations Cup. You can play a completely different game with him, but Liverpool don’t have anyone else with that pace.
The draw against Plymouth can be explained by Klopp’s team selection and Liverpool can still make it to the EFL Cup final with their second leg against Southampton, but losing at Old Trafford would be another setback.
These two teams pretty much pick themselves when everyone is fit, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philippe Coutinho play from the start. If they had won the last three games they might not rush him back, but it’s a case of needs must now.
Liverpool have had a good run of results in away games against the Premier League’s big teams but United have got their tails up. With Mkhitaryan, Pogba and Ibrahimovic in such excellent form, I think they might just edge it.