One of the least surprising aspects of the Manchester United team and squad that Jose Mourinho chose to face Arsenal this past Saturday was the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian has made a grand total of one substitute appearance after a disastrous first half performance in his one and only competitive start for the club against Manchester City. The former Borussia Dortmund man was thrown in at the deep end in the derby, and struggled to cope with the intensity of the occasion.
Mourinho clearly harbours doubts over whether Mkhitaryan has the ability to meet the demands of English football, and even after the Armenian finally made his return to the team as a substitute in United’s 2-1 Europa League defeat against Fenerbahce, he was immediately dropped for the following game three days later against Swansea City. As such, his omission from the squad to face Arsenal really wasn’t a shock whatsoever.
“It is true that I get little time on the field, but I am not going to give in. I went a long way to play in Manchester United, so nothing will prevent me from achieving my dream. I will not retreat, I will find the strength to reach my goal.”
At least Mkhitaryan isn’t alone in his struggles to nail down a first-team place; Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw have both had issues convincing their new manager that they are worthy of a starring role in the back four, with the former playing second fiddle to Antonio Valencia and injuries and doubts about his application for the latter to deal with.
This week might bring with it a perfect opportunity for Mourinho to give the Armenian a reprieve, however. Feyenoord are the visitors in the 5th game of this season’s Europa League group stages, and after that defeat to Fenerbahce, United need a win to keep qualification for the last-32 firmly within their control. Given Mkhitaryan’s apparent difficulties in adapting to English football, Mourinho wasn’t expected to drop him into the firing line against Arsenal, but at home to the Eredivisie side, Mkhitaryan could surely be gifted a rare start, or at the very least an appearance of some description. Mourinho will be mindful of his side’s deficiencies out wide of late, and really has nothing to lose by giving Mkhitaryan the opportunity to impress.