Jose Mourinho has explained why Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been dropped from Manchester United’s matchday squads in recent weeks.
The Armenian hasn’t played for the Reds since coming on as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 win against Brighton & Hove Albion November 25. Ever since being hooked after just over an hour in Man United’s trip to Premier League champions Chelsea, which ended in a 1-0 defeat, Mkhitaryan has been out-of-favour.
Mourinho explained that the decision is based on a desire for balance on his substitute’s bench to give him the best options possible to deal with any change in circumstances in the game.
“I can only have six [outfield] players on the bench and I try to have some balance on the bench,” Mourinho said. “I had two defenders and [Daley] Blind who can play in different areas. I had Ashley Young to cover me all of the wing and the wing-back position.
“I had [Ander] Herrera as a midfield player, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] as a striker and Marcus [Rashford] as a second striker and winger. I played [Anthony] Martial, [Juan] Mata and [Jesse] Lingard in the team.
“To have Micki means that I don’t have one of them and, in this moment, I believe the other ones they deserve [the chance to play].”
Mourinho is effectively saying that he’s chosen other attackers over Mkhitaryan based on form and the quality of previous performances. And that’s right. Mkhitaryan was in abysmal form before being dropped for the last few games.
Quite how he lasted so long starting every game for United given he started to hit poor form midway through October is odd. But Mourinho has since said that he gave Mkhitaryan an extended chance to find form, and that he failed.
Now it’s time for him to work hard and force himself back in, though that may be difficult with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both looking confident and Jesse Lingard in some of the best form of his career.