ARA THE RAT EXCLUSIVE On the evening of Saturday January 6th, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho joined Henrikh Mkhitaryan for an Armenian Christmas dinner at his Manchester residence. Having not been a regular in the team for most of the season, speculation of a feud between the two has been ongoing, with newspapers predicting that Mkhitaryan will be leaving the club in January. However in observance of Armenian Christmas, Manchester United’s FA Cup game with Derby County FC had been brought forward to Friday the 5th with Mkhitaryan included in the starting lineup. Despite performing well, Mkhitaryan was substituted at half time with the score at 0-0, replaced by Romelu Lukaku, a forward with 10 goals already this season. Manchester United went on to win the game 2-0 with Lukaku scoring one of the goals. Sky Sports later reported that Mourinho had sacrificed Mkhitaryan in favor of a more attacking player. Mourinho said: "Mkhi was the one that I sacrificed but it's something that I don't normally do but I did at half-time and apologised to him in front of other people because he didn't deserve it.” As a gesture of goodwill, Mourinho joined Mkhitaryan at his home for an Armenian Christmas meal the following night, bringing with him a bottle of Portuguese wine (Pêra-Manca 2008) Outside, Mourinho admitted to reporters that his knowledge of Armenian culture was quite limited, although he stated he had parked his bus near the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal on numerous occasions. Inside, Mourinho was immediately overwhelmed by the abundance of food. The meal kicked off at 8pm. Despite some hard-fought defending, Mourinho conceded his first serving of food in the 13th minute and then soon again in the 22nd. Not recovering from the early onslaught and with no clear game plan, Mourinho conceded food on his plate yet again in the 31st, 34th and 44th minute. In the second half, Mourinho tightened up the defence of his plate, avoiding dried fruit, Ferrero Rocher and more cheese boreg, but left his drinking glass wide open and conceded three alcoholic drinks, on the 67th, 77th, and 85th minute. Just as the evening looked to be wrapping up, with his guard down, Mourinho’s defence was once again penetrated in injury time with a ladle full of Anoush Abour and a cup of Armenian coffee, catching the United manager by surprise. At the final whistle, Mourinho looked depleted. This result marked the heaviest defeat at a dinner table in his entire managerial career. Shortly after, Mourinho was seen leaving the Mkhitaryan residence with three medium sized Tupperware containers and a copy of The Promise movie on Blu-ray. Mourinho declined a post-dinner interview, but sources close to the Manchester United management staff state that Mourinho is to organize an Armenian Madagh ceremony (a lamb sacrifice ritual) to express his gratitude. This story will be updated as more information is made available.
After weeks of anticipation, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the first Armenia international footballer in the English Premier League, much to the excitement of Armenian communities everywhere across the world. The 27-year-old Mkhitaryan, who was born in Yerevan and is Armenia’s all-time top scorer was signed by one of the world's biggest football clubs, Manchester United. “I’m very happy that everyone can be proud of me because it’s an honor for me too, to be the first Armenian player in England,” the former Borussia Dortmund forward told Manchester United TV channel, MUTV. Though Mkhitaryan's impending arrival in Manchester is a first for the small, landlocked country of Armenia, Armenians have been leaving their mark on the city for almost 200 years, contributing immensely to its rich multicultural history. First settling in Manchester as silk merchants in 1835, Armenians from Constantinople and Smyrna set up dozens of textile businesses in the city, a testament to their entrepreneurial spirit. Inside the Manchester Central Library’s archives are the documents of one such Armenian entrepreneur, Simpad Arabian, who grew up in Constantinople as part of the wealthy Armenian merchant class, left Turkey for Egypt during the outbreak of the First World War, and sought work in America before later moving to Manchester to become a textile shipping merchant. Certificate of identity issued to Simpad Arabian on 12. Sept, 1929 by the Home Office (Manchester Central Library Archives) As their numbers grew after waves of persecution in the Ottoman Empire, first in the 1880s and then during the Armenian Genocide in 1915, they raised funds and established the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Manchester in 1870, the oldest Armenian church in Western Europe. The church also became a social center in addition to serving the community’s spiritual needs. Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Manchester, 1970 Rev. Haroutune Yegwartian, taken in 1896. (Manchester Central Library Archives) In 1908, the Armenian Ladies Association of Manchester was established, pledging to help the social progress of Armenians in England and “help keep the inside of the church bright.” (Armenian Ladies Association of Manchester, Manchester Central Library Archives) The history of the Armenian community in Manchester is still being unearthed today. In 2013, a volunteer at the Manchester Central Library archives began investigating the history of her home named “Massis,” later discovering its Armenian connection and the family who lived there. “Like many Armenians who moved to Manchester, Karnig Funduklian was a businessman, and the family textile/shipping business Funduklian & Sons benefited from the then booming cotton trade within the city,” she wrote. Family group showing Mr. K. Funduklian, his wife and 3 children, cousin, and servants in c.1900 (Manchester Central Library Archives) Three years prior, artist and author Neil Roland discovered how one Armenian family had lived in the house built in the final years of Queen Victoria’s reign before he bought it. The Arschavir children, Arto, Adrine and Ara were born in the house. “Even now, 98 years after the birth of Arto and just three weeks since his death, this house is still offering up secrets and signs of their long and happy tenure here,” he wrote. Perhaps the most well-known Armenian-Mancunian connection in recent years comes in the form of David Dickinson (born David Gulesserian), renowned antiques expert host of the British TV show, “Dickinson's Real Deal.” Dickinson, who was adopted, discovered that his biological grandfather Hrant was an Armenian silk merchant who came to Manchester from the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s at the age of 16 to set up a thriving trading company. David Dickinson Though the community has since dwindled, the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Manchester still exists as does the Armenian Taverna restaurant. Established in 1968, it serves traditional Armenian fare like Ishkan trout and the yoghurt and cucumber salad known as “Jajuk.” Just before last year’s Armenian Genocide centennial, BBC Radio produced a five part audio series on the Armenian Diaspora in Europe - with Manchester featured in the first episode. “Despite everything that history has thrown at this community, somehow the Armenians have managed to survive all around the world,” says writer Charles Emmerson in the program, as he shares insights from both established and new members of this forgotten community. "In England if you say 'I'm Armenian,' people will say 'what do you mean, aluminum?'" one man says. As Mkhitaryan gets ready to move up in the football world, his forthcoming contribution to Manchester is sure add to the city's significant Armenian history. Ara the Rat / Mkhitaryan tee possibly in the works. Sign up to the Ara the Rat mailing list to be notified of our new products.