Jose Mourinho has explained why he withdrew Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with FC Rostov in the Europa League, noting that the Armenian was not fit enough to play 90 minutes just yet.
Mkhitaryan marked his return from a two-week spell on the sidelines with a nicely taken goal to hand Mourinho’s men the lead in Russia after 35 minutes.
He was then replaced by Anthony Martial, who consequently struggled to have an influence, after 67 minutes and received a warm reception from many locals in the ground as he trotted off.
Mourinho, speaking after the game, explained that his substitution was underpinned by nothing more than a lack of match-fitness.
“We know that he cannot play 90 minutes,” Mourinho said. “We knew he was going to play 60 minutes no matter the result.
“We make that decision together because he was not in best condition and gave him a chance to play attacking positions with Zlatan and possibility to score goal.
“He did his job well and managed to finish the game without injury which is important for us.”
There was a case for resting the 28-year-old ahead of this potentially hazardous encounter: a hard, icy and most definitely uneven surface, with chunks of turf flailing around at will. Not the best environment for someone returning from injury.
But Mourinho took a gamble and it duly paid off; the Armenian served as a rare source of innovation in an otherwise disjointed encounter, and he was able to come off the pitch injury free ahead of the visit to Stamford Bridge.