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16th Dec 2017

There’s a theory on why Jose Mourinho has dropped Henrikh Mkhitaryan

This would be strange

Robert Redmond

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s time at Manchester United appears to be coming to an end.

The Armenian had been in brilliant form, scoring two goals and registering five assists in the first few weeks of the season, but has found himself out of the team since United lost 1-0 away to Chelsea in November. Mkhitaryan has only been named in one of Jose Mourinho’s last eight squad selections, and has reportedly had a training ground argument with his manager amid speculation of a move away from Old Trafford in January.

Mourinho said ahead of United’s trip to West Brom on Sunday that Mkhitaryan doesn’t deserve a place on the bench ahead of other players.

The reason for Mkhitaryan’s absence appears plainly obvious – Mourinho doesn’t rate the player, and never really has. The former Borussia Dortmund forward was left out of the United squad for large spells last season, and his manager has never seemed convinced of his talent. There’s also an argument that Mourinho’s defensive tactics don’t suit a player of Mkhitaryan’s skillset, and the player was given a thankless task within the limited framework of his manager’s gameplan. It’s not easy to be a creative attacking player when your manager won’t try attack a defence containing Alberto Moreno and Dejan Lovren.

Mkhitaryan reportedly said as much during a discussion with Mourinho. If he is to leave Old Trafford, he certainly won’t be the first creative attacking player that Mourinho has disposed of. The former Chelsea manager found no use for Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah, two of the best players in the Premier League.

However, there’s another theory about why Mourinho has dropped Mkhitaryan. According to Matt Hughes, writing in The Times, sources close to the United forward are so baffled by his omission, they think Mkhitaryan’s decision to not vote for Mourinho in the Fifa Coach of the Year award is “counting against him.”

Mkhitaryan is the captain of the Armenia team and got a vote in the award, which was given out at the Best Fifa Football awards in London on October 23. He voted for eventual winner Zinedine Zidane, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2016 and 2017, in first place, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri in second place and Leonardo Jardim, who guided Monaco to the French title and the semi-finals of the Champions League, in third place. The 28-year-old didn’t give Mourinho a vote, and since the awards were staged, he has started only once for United in the league.

Mkhitaryan’s absence is probably because of Mourinho’s reservations about his ability, but it’s not the strangest Mourinho conspiracy theory around at the moment.

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