On the back of his first loss as Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho has defended his choice in not bringing the struggling Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard off before half-time. It was clear to see from all involved that both Mkhitaryan and Lingard were struggling with fitness and couldn’t get into the game. Mkhitaryan suffered what looked a nasty injury in Armenia’s 3-0 defeat to the Czech Republic but was determined to get back faster saying on Twitter:
“Not sure yet if I’ll bit fit for the derby, but I’m motivated as ever to put all energy to be in great shape asap!!”
He worked hard and made it back into the line-up replacing Juan Mata on the right-hand side of midfield, more than likely for his pace and better ability in a counter-attack system, but it wasn’t what he would have wanted as he struggled with his first touch and looked out of sorts in possession. Lingard was declared fit along with the rest of the squad on Friday in Mourinho’s press conference but again looked sluggish when he managed to get on the ball and didn’t show what he is capable of in any aspects of the game.
As reported by Manchester Evening News, In his post-match presser, Mourinho defended not hauling off both players after 20 minutes as well as saying he thought it was more than just those two he thought about removing.
“I didn’t make changes after 20 minutes because I don’t want destroy the players, I didn’t want to make three changes at half-time because I was afraid in a long 45 minutes something might happen.
“We lost the ball in these kind of positions, so it was not Mikhi and Jesse it was much more than Mikhi and Jesse.
“I made a couple of decisions that I thought individual qualities of certain players would give me what I know that I want and I didn’t get it.”
Having made the half-time changes with Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera coming on, United looked much better. The passing was much more controlled, Rashford added tons of pace on the left-hand side making an immediate impact creating a good chance for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Herrera sat deep in midfield allowing Fellaini and Pogba to get further forward in an attempt to equalise, a role in which he played excellently.
Was Mourinho right to keep the substitutions until half-time? In all honesty, yes. If there was a serious injury in the second half, later on in the first half etc it would have caused an issue and considering how bad the Bravo challenge on Rooney was, that could have been a reality. Also, Mourinho is right, destroying a players confidence is something hard to recover from, just look at Memphis Depay, was dropped and messed about by Louis van Gaal and has suffered ever since. If Mourinho had dragged them both off early on, it would have been a tough place to recover from especially for a player who has the class and ability of Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
With a Europa League game against Feyenoord coming up on Thursday, it’ll be interesting to see if the duo starts again, or whether Martial, Memphis or Mata come in for something different. Martial looked lively after coming on, potentially boosted by his first goal for his national side France. What is likely, however, Mourinho will make sure United come out firing from the first whistle rather than allowing the opposition to play the way they let City run riot on Saturday.