Manchester United were held by Anderlecht after a late equaliser
The Armenian international poached a vital away goal here last night to put them on course for the semi-finals.
The only blemish came with four minutes to go when Leander Dendoncker superbly headed in to level for Anderlecht – but United will be confi dent of finishing the job at home next Thursday.
Mkhitaryan has now scored in each of United’s last four away ties. The run started in Odessa against Zorya Luhansk back in December and continued against Saint-Etienne and then Rostov.
But last night’s 37th minute effort against Anderlecht could prove the most important.
Jose Mourinho had been complaining that he had not got a Javier ‘Chicarito’ Hernandez ‘fox-in-the-box’ type striker.
But Mkhitaryan was first to react when Marcus Rashford’s shot was parried by keeper Ruben, turning the loose ball home from a tight angle.
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He is now one short now of becoming the third United player this season to reach double figures in all competitions after Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata.
The last time United played in this stadium was back in the autumn of 2000 when they lost a Champions League group game 2-1 with Polish-born Canadian international Tomasz Radzinski – just before his move to Everton – scoring twice.
He was the smaller part of a ‘little and large’ Anderlecht strike force that night with German giant Jan Koller.
The good news for United is that another Polish striker Lukasz Teodorczyk – Anderlecht’s top scorer – was only fit enough for the bench.
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But it did not stop the Belgian champions from making most of the early running and United had to survive some early scares.
Massimo Bruno mis-kicked when presented with a chance, Sergio Romero had to race out to deny Frank Acheampong, who then delivered a low cross that just eluded Kiese Thelin.
Manchester United players celebrate Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal
But with their first serious attack United nearly scored.
Ibrahimovic’s flicked effort from Rashford’s cross was blocked and, from the rebound, Jesse Lingard struck the post with a close range effort.
Anderlecht danger man Youri Tielemans showed the skills that have put Europe’s top clubs on alert and Mkhitaryan was booked for ending one of his runs with a cynical trip.
Mkhitaryan then started to display his own skills. His goal bound shot was blocked by Bram Nuytinck but he then produced a clever ‘nutmeg’ on the same player before releasing Lingard who was denied by a super lastditch tackle by Serigne Mbodji.
After Mkhitaryan provided the breakthrough United had to withstand some heavy pressure at the start of the second half with the pacy Acheampong causing them problems.
Michael Carrick was booked for tripping the winger on the edge of the area and United were relieved to see Tielemans’ freekick drop just over the bar.
Obradovic scored a crucial equaliser for Anderlecht
Antonio Valencia then hooked Bruno’s goal-bound shot away from the net, turning quickly to block Acheampong’s shot.
Acheampong then should have gone down to earn a penalty after Valencia’s clumsy challenge but United got away with it and weathered the storm by pushing forward to threaten a second goal.
Mkhitaryan went close when his volley from Matteo Darmain’s cross drifted just wide. Then Lingard’s powerful shot was saved by Ruben.
Back came Anderlecht and Ivan Obradovic fired wide, Eric Bailly made a vital block on the ever-dangerous Tielemans and Darmian made a great tackle on the same player as the Belgians kept United on their toes to the end.
Rashford, boosted by ending his Premier League goal drought at Sunderland on Sunday, was a constant threat for United. Obradovic picked up a caution after resorting to a scything challenge to stop the youngster as United tried to hold firm.
Predictably, Marouane Fellaini, who used to play for Anderlecht’s fierce rivals Standard Liege, received fierce abuse when he came on for Rashford.
And four minutes from time Dendoncker pounced to head in Obradovic’s centre and make it 1-1, moments after Pogba had missed a good chance.