Given Mourinho’s comments, it’s hard to see the Mkhitaryan sticking around at Old Trafford for much longer. And perhaps that is what Mourinho wants.
Speaking ahead of United’s clash with Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Mourinho discussed Mkhitaryan’s recent form.
He didn’t hold back.
“I was not happy with his last performances,” Mourinho said. “It’s not one or two, I am talking about three, four or five. He started well this season but his performance levels, goalscoring, assists, high pressing, bringing the team with him as number 10, were decreasing step by step. That was enough [to be dropped] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”
This isn’t the first time Mkhitaryan has been criticized by Mourinho, but it may be the last and with incredible competition for places among the attacking midfielders at United, the Armenian international may be the odd one out.
Just a few months into his debut campaign at United, following his $37 million move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2016, Mkhitaryan was hauled off at half time in the Manchester derby and Mourinho didn’t start him in another PL game for three months.
The 28-year-old rebounded well from a tough start to life at United and scored 11 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions in 2016-17, scoring six times in their run to winning the UEFA Europa League, including in the final.
Mkhitaryan recovered from that knock-back and did start this season well but hasn’t featured since a lackluster display in the defeat at Chelsea on Nov. 5. In all honesty, Mkhitaryan was woeful at Chelsea and it would be easy to understand if the real reason he hasn’t played a single second in any of United’s last two games is because he is still lost in N'Golo Kante‘s back pocket…
With Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all able to play in the same role as Mkhitaryan, plus Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to full fitness to boost their attacking options, this attack on Mkhitaryan is well-timed by Mourinho and could suggest he’s ready to offload him in January when the transfer window reopens.
It is believed Mkhitaryan’s former club Dortmund may be eager to buy him back in January with the Bundesliga side having bought Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze and Nuri Sahin back to the Westfalenstadion in recent years.
Mkhitaryan’s time at United has been somewhat underwhelming but if he leaves in January, his career can’t be brushed aside as a complete failure as he helped them to two major trophies last season and a return to the UEFA Champions League.
His time at United will be remembered more for his constant battle to impress Mourinho. The 2015-16 Bundesliga player of the year appears to have lost both the battle, and the war, when it comes to that.