Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been missing for Manchester United’s last two games and it’s safe to say we’ve missed the attacking influence of the Armenian midfielder but his return from injury saw him included in the travelling squad to face FC Rostov tonight.
In the two games without him – League Cup final with Southampton and at home against Bournemouth – Man United have struggled in front of goal. Not that Mkhitaryan is the solution to all our problems but it is safe to say we’re so much better and fluid going forward with him in the side.
When looking at it that way, getting him back into action as soon as possible is in United’s interest but for me I think the risk of playing him against Rostov is not worth taking.
— David de Gea (@D_DeGea) March 8, 2017
Mkhitaryan is only just coming back from a hamstring injury and the FC Rostov pitch looks more like a Sunday League cricket pitch than one fit for a European football knockout competition. That alone should be reason enough not to play him and it sounds like Jose Mourinho already has those concerns having admitted he was unsure about his starting XI because of the pitch. Rightly so.
Mourinho wouldn’t have taken Mkhitaryan all the way to Russia if he wasn’t fit enough to return but with Chelsea away on Monday in the FA Cup, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic banned, Mourinho’s priorities will be split. With that in mind, holding Mkhitaryan back and preparing him for Chelsea as his return makes more sense.
Maybe Mkhitaryan will get a run out for the last ten to 15 minutes against FC Rostov just to help him with his match rhythm (Louis van Gaal klaxon!) but the concept of starting the Armenian on that pitch with his recent injury woes frightens me. There are risks you can avoid as a manager and starting Mkhitaryan against Rostov looks like one of those situations.