José Mourinho has suggested Henrikh Mkhitaryan could not handle the pressure of playing in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal and instead told the forward he would be involved in Thursday’s match with Feyenoord.
Mourinho believes Mkhitaryan, following a difficult start to his United career, is more likely to do himself justice in the Europa League. The Armenian has started only once in the Premier League – September’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester City – and Mourinho replaced him at half-time.
The 27-year-old has made only five appearances since signing from Borussia Dortmund for £30m in July. Mourinho has been unconvinced of his worth, despite Mkhitaryan being a former Bundesliga player of the year.
“I told him that he is going to be involved in the game against Feyenoord,” Mourinho said. “He is trying. He is not happy but he is transforming his frustration in a good way, which is to close the mouth and work hard and try to adapt.
“I told him Arsenal was not the game for you. I don’t think he needs 10 or 20 minutes from the bench. He needs less pressure and better conditions for him to express his qualities. I think he needs a good game and he needs to either start or, if not, to come on for the second half.”
Mkhitaryan is yet to complete 90 minutes for United despite Mourinho’s glowing description after signing him. “I believe he will make an impact on the team very quickly as his style of play is suited to the Premier League,” he said at the time. “We are all looking forward to working with him.”
If he is selected to face Feyenoord, the midfielder will have a chance to affect a pivotal game. United are third in Group A, a point behind the Dutch team and Fenerbahce with only one match left after Thursday.
This article was first and originally published in theguardian.