Football

Mkhitaryan's stunner steals show

Armenian midfielder scores spectacular "scorpion kick" for his third goal in three games

Henrikh Mkhitaryan vowed to help Manchester United continue their Premier League resurgence after netting the best goal of his career.

Initial struggles to break into the squad, never mind the line-up, have become a thing of the past for the talented Armenian, who has rapidly become a fans' favourite at Old Trafford.

On Boxing Day, he netted in a third successive match, and few could have opened their United account with three better goals after he followed up his excellent solo goal at Zorya Luhansk and drive against Tottenham.

Back from an ankle complaint, the 27-year-old substitute met a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a "scorpion" kick towards the end of the 3-1 win against Sunderland.

"PHENOMENAL"

Jose Mourinho called the goal "phenomenal" and Mkhitaryan freely admitted it was the greatest of his career.

"That was the best goal I've ever scored," he told MUTV. "I was very excited.

"The first thing I did was look at the assistant and I saw it was not ruled as offside so I just started to celebrate.

"I was expecting the ball to be in front of me and then I realised I was in front of it.

Mkhitaryan's goal was just outrageous. It was brilliant. To even try that - we should be looking at that for the next six months, it was that good. Former England captain Alan Shearer

"As the ball was behind me, the only thing I could do was a backheel so I did that and I succeeded."

It was a goal that impressed even former England captain Alan Shearer, not a stranger to spectacular strikes during his playing days.

He said: "Mkhitaryan's goal was just outrageous. It was brilliant.

"To even try that - we should be looking at that for the next six months, it was that good.

"It was brilliant ability to even try that."

Mkhitaryan was fortunate that his effort stood though.

The goal, reminiscent of former Colombia goalkeeper Rene Higuita's famous "scorpion kick" save against England in 1995, had been given despite an apparent offside.

But, few would argue that it altered the outcome or that United did not deserve victory.

Daley Blind's low strike put them 1-0 up heading into the break, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan scoring late on before a superb consolation goal for Sunderland through Fabio Borini.

It was United's fourth straight Premier League win and Mkhitaryan wants to extend that run in the New Year's Eve clash with Middlesbrough.

"I don't have anything of concern from a past injury so I'm happy to be back to help the team," the substitute said.

"I will try to do my best for the next game. It's very important that we're in good shape and to keep going like this."

United captain Wayne Rooney is a doubt for the Boro clash due to a thigh injury he felt during training on Christmas Day.

"Honestly, I don't think so," Mourinho said, when asked if Rooney would be fit to face Boro.

"I hope so. I would like. He is always a player I would like to have, but I have my little doubts. Let's see the evolution."

Sunderland return to action with a trip to fellow strugglers Burnley after David Moyes' Old Trafford return ended in disappointment.

"We are more optimistic because we've got a couple of results and we're back on the tails of the other teams," the former United boss said.

"But I said right at the start how difficult it was going to be, and that's not going to change.

"It'll be the same level of difficulty right to the last minute for us, I've got no doubt about that." - WIRE SERVICES

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