Jose Mourinho’s attempts to balance his Manchester United matchday squad have left Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the odd man out, the manager has explained.
United returned to winning ways as Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal against Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Wednesday, three days on from their 2-1 derby defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Armenia international Mkhitaryan was left on the sidelines for those two matches, having also sat out games versus Newcastle United, Basel, Watford, Arsenal and CSKA Moscow over the past month.
Mkhitaryan was a fixture in the first team earlier this season but Mourinho accused the former Borussia Dortmund star of “disappearing” during games at the start of his spell out in the cold.
“I can only have six [outfield] players on the bench and I try to have some balance on the bench,” Mourinho offered in a more measured assessment after the Bournemouth match.
“I had two defenders and [Daley] Blind who can play in different areas. I had Ashley Young to cover me all the wings 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 Mkhi means that I don’t have one of them and, in this moment, I believe the other ones they deserve [the chance to play].”
United travel to West Brom on Saturday, where an Ibrahimovic brace secured a 2-0 win last season.