Jose Mourinho wasn’t pleased to be asked about why Henrikh Mkhitaryan was left out of the match-day squad for Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Newcastle United over the weekend.
The Armenian made a scintillating start to the 2017/18 campaign, claiming five assists in just three games, but has encountered a miserable slump over the last month or so.
He was heavily derided for anonymous displays against Liverpool and Chelsea, and was left out of the squad last weekend for what Mourinho described as “tactical reasons”.
And the 54-year-old, speaking at a press conference ahead of the clash with FC Basel, expressed frustration at not being asked about members of his squad who actually played over the weekend, before noting that he wanted to see Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial start together.
“There are always questions about somebody in a certain moment, a certain match and a certain period that didn’t play. The story is always the same.
“In some positions, when you don’t have injuries, you have lots of options in other positions. In this moment, we have Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay so I can imagine, next week, you are going to ask – why is this player not playing?
“Micki is not playing because we had lots of options for that match. I decided to play Marcus Rashford and Martial together. For many weeks, the questions was – why do they not play together?
“Now the question is why is Micki not playing. The answer is every simple – until the international board change the rules, I can only start with 11!”
Mourinho pulled Mkhitaryan out of a slump last year by forcing him to accept a spectator’s role and the confidence sapped 28-year-old may indeed benefit from the same method following a string of growingly ineffective displays at No.10.
And it is no coincidence that Mkhitaryan hasn’t claimed an assist this season when Paul Pogba, who made a storming return to action on Saturday, wasn’t in the starting XI. The forward momentum and creative zeal invoked by the Frenchman’s presence in midfield will always benefit whoever plays at No.10.
Supporters will just hope to see the playmaker, who has travelled to Switzerland and could start, take advantage of the rejuvenated nature of United’s play against Basel on Wednesday.