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'He needs to play' - Ex-Man United midfielder baffled by Mkhitaryan's lack of football

The summer signing’s absence from the first team is puzzling to former Red Devils player Owen Hargreaves.

Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED and England midfielder Owen Hargreaves is puzzles by Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s exclusion from the first team at Old Trafford.

Mkhitaryan arrived from Borussia Dortmund during the close season as one of four marquee signings alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly.

While those three have been first-choice selections throughout the campaign so far, Mkhitaryan’s last action came on his solitary Premier League start – where he was substituted at half-time in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City on 10 September.

City return to Old Trafford in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, where there will be intrigue surrounding any potential role handed to Mkhitaryan after the Armenia international was excluded from Mourinho’s matchday squads versus Fenerbahce and Chelsea despite returning to training following a thigh injury.

“He needs to play, I can’t believe that he’s not getting a look-in. He would be a banker in my starting XI,” ex-Bayern Munich man Hargreaves told Squawka.

“He had a slow start at Dortmund too and he was the players’ player of the year last season. He got 23 goals and 32 assists, which is staggering numbers.

“This wasn’t in a terrible league against pub teams and I can’t think of anybody who could put up those numbers besides Messi and Ronaldo. He’s a top player and we haven’t seen it yet at United.

The thing is, he’s such a wonderful player but I think he’s also quite a sensitive guy. It would have been perfect if he started off flying with goals and assists, but the slow start has probably hit his confidence.”

One player involved at Mkhitaryan’s expense is Juan Mata – perhaps surprisingly given Mourinho jettisoned the player during his time at Chelsea.

Both men endured a painful return to Stamford Bridge on Sunday as the hosts ran out 4-0 winners and Spain international Mata is keen to see a reaction in Wednesday’s derby clash.

“We must carry on,” he wrote in his weekly blog. “Luckily, in three days we have a very important fixture, and as from now we must focus on this new opportunity to get better.

“It sounds like a cliche but it’s true; when we win and everybody praises you it’s easy to be united and celebrate together, but it is now, after such a defeat, when we must remain mentally strong and keep going. Together we win and together we lose.”

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