Henrikh Mkhitaryan needs to earn his place at Manchester United

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has given an explanation as to why he has left Armenian attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan out for the last five matches, also for two matches in November. The attacking midfielder played in the 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion but had not even been picked for the squad recently with many supporters criticising the manager, but forgetting what they had previously said about the player, calling for him to be dropped.

This season, Mkhitaryan started in great form with two goals and five assists in 16 appearances (13 starts and three from the bench), having 21 shots on goal, seven of those on target. Many thought this was going to be the season of Mkhitaryan and his debut season, which started slowly and soon gained some momentum, would eventually be behind him. With the injury to Paul Pogba, United started to lose the strength they had in the side, which is when Mkhitaryan’s form started to decline. Speaking to the official Manchester United website, Mourinho said:

“I can only have six [outfield] players on the bench and I try to have some balance on the bench – 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 right to state Mkhitaryan would not deserve his chance to be in the squad, especially after putting in some poor performances at a time where individual players needed to stand up and be counted as a team without Pogba is a team that is out of ideas. Mkhitaryan needed to be one of the players to stand up. but he kept disappearing. I have seen the comments of some Armenian fans as some of them suggest Mkhitaryan is better than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, which is ludicrous.

Luke Shaw has spent much of the season on the sidelines recovering from injury, returning to fitness with the U23’s and waiting for his chance to impress the manager. Shaw has persevered and earned his place in the team. He has made four appearances this season, two in the Carabao Cup in the 4-1 victory over Burton Albion in September and the 2-0 victory over Swansea City in October. After sitting out of the side for over a month, Shaw started against CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League and played his heart out, doing the same against Bournemouth on Wednesday.

This is what Mkhitaryan will need to do in order to get back into Mourinho’s plans this season. At a team like United, hard work is required and if you are not a player who can give that and goes missing at regular intervals, that will be it. I like Mkhitaryan, he has his uses, but he needs to keep offering that to stay in the team. Perhaps he will find a way back during the busy festive period as United travel to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday as United think about the five matches which will see them through into 2018.

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