Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has warned under-performing Henrikh Mkhitaryan to cut out the “disappearing” acts.
The 28-year-old has had a fair share of highs and lows since last year’s big-money switch from Borussia Dortmund, with the attacking midfielder currently going through a challenging period.
Last season he recovered from an inauspicious start to play a key role in United’s Europa League triumph, but a promising start this term has markedly tapered off.
That drop-off led Mourinho to omit him from the last two matchday squads and the Portuguese wants a reaction as he prepares to bring the Armenian back into the fold in today’s Premier League clash against Brighton.
“I was not happy with his last performances,” the United boss said. “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 goal scoring and assists, high pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a number 10, were decreasing step by step. That was enough because others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance..”
Mourinho says he is worried Marouane Fellaini will leave United in the summer as contract talks continue to drag on. The 30-year-old has endured a difficult relationship with supporters but has become an influential player under the Portuguese. That form was recognised as the Red Devils triggered the one-year extension in Fellaini’s contract at the start of the year, but agreeing a deal beyond the summer is proving difficult.
Asked if he was worried that Fellaini would leave at the end of the season, Mourinho said: “Yes, I am.”
“It is a discussion between the player and the board. He finishes his contract, he has the right to decide his future, and I respect the board because the decisions and the discussions are under their control. So I just wait, wishing they will have an understanding but it’s out of my control.”
Mourinho certainly will not shy from telling his players what to do this afternoon, especially after slipping back into old habits as a lack of cutting edge saw them lose a match in Basel they dominated. The 1-0 midweek loss does not seriously hamper their chances of Champions League progress, but underlines why his exciting attacking options cannot be considered the best he has had.
“A team that plays the way we play so many times, I think we should score more goals than we do,” Mourinho said.
“The team that excites more is the team that after five chances is winning 4-0. That’s a team that excites more.
“The reality is that in the Premier League by not scoring enough we are still, I think, the second or third team with the most goals scored. So not dramatic.”
Meanwhile Brighton boss Chris Hughton knows his side must raise their game as they start a testing run of fixtures at United. Brighton host Crystal Palace on Tuesday before then welcoming Liverpool. Fixtures at Spurs and Chelsea on St Stephen’s Day are also on the horizon. “We have to raise our game,” said Hughton. “I want a performance from the boys and if they give me that then I’ll be delighted whatever the result.”
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