It’s been a roller-coaster season for United fans. From the moment Jose Mourinho arrived, followed closely behind by a string of huge signings, things have been going either very well or very badly, without much in between.
One of the subplots lost in the drama at Old Trafford is that of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The attacking midfielder has barely played since signing in the summer, last appearing for the end of the second half in the Europa League a few weeks ago, then not even featuring on the bench against Arsenal last weekend.
Jose Mourinho has explained his reasoning for not picking the Armenian, and it’s fairly straightforward.
‘I told him this was not the game for you,’ Mourinho is quoted as saying in the Metro.
‘I don’t think he needs 10 or 20 minutes from the bench – I think you need a good game and you need to either start or if not to come for the second half.’
‘He needs less pressure and better conditions for him to express his qualities.’
It makes some sense – it is hard for players to get into games in cameo appearances at the end, especially when they are not at match fitness. But with Mourinho not picking the former Dortmund man, this situation is only going to get worse. The Europa League represents Mkhitaryan’s best hope for minutes, and he is struggling to earn a start even there. At the moment it is a real Catch 22 for the attacker. His manager won’t play him till he’s fit and in good form – and it won’t be possible for that to happen until he gets picked.