Jose Mourinho insists his decision to omit Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United’s match-day squad against Newcastle United was based purely on form.
With Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic fit again, the Armenian playmaker was forced to watch from the stands as United returned to winning ways with a stylish 4-1 victory.
Mkhitaryan had played at least 45 minutes in each of United’s 11 prior Premier League matches but after a hot start to the season, when he managed a goal and five assists in his first five games, his form has dipped since.
And Mourinho has warned Mkhitaryan he faces plenty of competition for his position now that – with the exception of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly – he once again has a fully-fit squad to pick from.
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“The story is always the same. In some positions, when you don’t have injuries, you have lots of options in other positions,” Mourinho said, speaking ahead of United’s Champions League game against Basel on Wednesday.
“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 question was – why do they not play together? Now, the question is why is Micki not playing.
“The answer is very simple – until the international board change the rules, I can only start with 11!”