Former Ireland striker Tony Cascarino has explained why Henrikh Mkhitaryan hasn’t received a chance to feature under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
The Armenian, who arrived at Old Trafford in July, has only managed one start under Mourinho, and hasn’t featured since Man United’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City on September 10.
Eyebrows were raised once again after Mkhitaryan, despite being deemed 100% fit by Mourinho, was once again left out of the match-day squad ahead of United’s League Cup win over Pep Guardiola’s side.
Writing in the Times, Cascarino claimed Mkhitaryan’s absence stems from the 53-year-old’s apparent tendency to prohibit players from receiving the chance to prove him wrong.
“The continuing absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a mystery, in all but one sense,” he said.
“In the light of United’s difficulties, you would think that a natural goalscoring midfield player, who did so well at Borussia Dortmund and who cost £26 million, could find his way into an EFL Cup squad.
“But this is Mourinho’s way. If he does not fancy a player, for whatever reason, he will not give them an opportunity to prove him wrong on the pitch.”
Given that Mourinho specifically went after Mkhitaryan in the summer transfer window, before publicly stating that he was looking forward to seeing the 27-year-old return to “the levels we know he can achieve”, it’s a bit unreasonable to claim that Mkhitaryan performing well would somehow prove the Portuguese wrong.
One suspects that Mkhitaryan, even without any injury, is lacking ‘match rhythm’ (to coin a term used by a certain former Dutch manager), and Mourinho – perhaps wary of the Armenian’s confidence shattering 45 minutes against Man City – is merely waiting for the right time to reintroduce him back into the fold.
With this in mind, Saturday’s game against Burnley could serve as an ideal opportunity for Mkhitaryan to reimpose himself on Mourinho’s starting XI.