Manchester United’s 4-1 win against Leicester City would make anyone forget about every other player besides the 11 on the pitch, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw were two players tipped for major success this season, neither of whom have fully kicked on yet. Shaw, a marauding fullback, was publicly criticized by Mourinho for being one of the players at fault for United’s second concession against Watford, while an unfit Mkhitaryan was one of the reasons for which United completely failed in the first half of the Manchester Derby.
While Anthony Martial and Phil Jones were the only players declared injured by United, Mourinho still omitted Mkhitaryan and Shaw from his matchday squad against Leicester. The creative midfielders in Mkhitaryan’s place all got involved in the goals, while Daley Blind earned two assists from left-back and kept Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez out of the team.
Mourinho implied that they’re important, though, saying it was tough to omit players even though they weren’t fully fit because he was desperate to win the match. After the match, he likely didn’t have regrets, and I’d be surprised to see many changes when United plays Stoke next week.
“I wouldn’t say injured but I would say not 100 per cent. When they are not 100 percent I always think this kind of difficult moment where you feel you have to win the match I prefer always to go with players who are 100 percent ready physically and the mental point of view.
“Martial and Phil Jones are injured but all the others is that grey zone between fit and injured and the decision was to go with those who were ready for it.”
Shaw and Mkhitaryan should not fear for their places- they are two spectacular footballers who need to be eased back in to prevent injuries and allow both players to reach full fitness. Mkhitaryan was sluggish against City and Shaw never looked fully fit in his long spell in the team, and with home games against Zorya Luhansk and Stoke coming up, now could be the perfect time to ease them back in.
With Phil Jones never fit and Marcos Rojo a poor option at left-back, Blind will be playing matches in the centre of defence without a doubt, and there will be plenty of place in the squad for Luke Shaw. Meanwhile, in attacking midfield, Mata isn’t Mourinho’s first choice option, and with Rooney ousted from the team and Young failing to start in the Premier League, there will be plenty of room for the experience of Mkhitaryan. I expect next year to be the season where both of these players come into their own, and the experiences they have this year will be key in ensuring that.
Many United players have been in and around the team despite not having the quality to be there. That being said, Mkhitaryan and Shaw aren’t two of such players and should definitely see their opportunities. People forget that football is a squad game and not a lineup one; United has a ridiculous number of fixtures this season and a massive squad, and as the poorer players are phased out, Shaw and Mkhitaryan will have more and more time on the side.