José Mourinho dropped Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United’s last two squads because the forward had been “disappearing” in games.
The manager left Mkhitaryan out of United’s defeat at Basel and last Saturday’s win over Newcastle United after the player had started 10 of the 11 previous Premier League matches. Having managed five assists in August, Mkhitaryan has since made none and has scored only once in 11 appearances.
Mourinho, who had replaced Mkhitaryan in each of his eight starts, said: “I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a No10, were decreasing.
“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”
Mourinho has included Mkhitaryan in his squad for Saturday’s home game against Brighton. However asked if the player had impressed enough in training to earn the recall, he said: “When you play a lot of matches, training is difficult to judge because in the end you train in small groups.
“You have always the group that played the last match, you have always the group that didn’t play, you have one group of, let’s say, 10 recovering from the last match and you have another group of eight, nine or 10 that are trying to train.
“I cannot say that when you play so much, training is the best habitat to analyse players. I would say in the match, and then sometimes in a couple of minutes you see things. Then, you don’t need sometimes to play 40, 50, 60 minutes for the coach to have feelings and have data to analyse. So I would say it’s on the pitch, especially on the pitch. Tell me on the pitch what you want to do in the next match [should you be retained].
“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”