Jose Mourinho made it completely clear that the EFL Cup means a lot to him by selecting a strong side for Wednesday’s game against Manchester City.
It was a good opportunity for Mourinho to make some changes. He could have rested 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and given starts to some players who are desperate for minutes, including Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian.
Mourinho’s counterpart, Pep Guardiola, did just that. The City boss made nine changes to the team that started in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Southampton.
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The Spaniard might be ruing his overhaul after his team were undone 1-0 at Old Trafford, but Guardiola proved that the EFL Cup doesn’t mean much to him.
Mourinho, though, started Ibrahimovic, £89 million man Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and David de Gea. He wanted the win.
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Yet it was surprising to see one player omitted from the Manchester United squad.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan travelled to Old Trafford and looked almost certain to receive some minutes as he looks to kickstart his United career.
So it was rather odd to see his name not in the starting line-up or on the list of United substitutes.
How Mkhitaryan felt after Man City omission
According to The Guardian, Mkhitaryan was “surprised” by the omission, and it’s easy to see why.
The Armenian has made just four appearances for Manchester United since his move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, the last of which came on September 10.
His absence from Mourinho’s plans sparked rumours of an impending exit which have since been denied.
Yet can anyone honestly say they believe Mkhitaryan will be at Old Trafford next season with 100 per cent certainty?
Mourinho: Mkhitaryan must work more
The 27-year-old, who was voted the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season for 2015-16, has played just 105 minutes of Premier League football.
The Guardian’s report claims Mkhitaryan was also shocked by Mourinho’s recent claim that the playmaker isn’t match fit.
“He has to work more to get the intensity and fitness to play at a high level,” Mourinho said.
Under no illusions
Mkhitaryan admitted in the pre-season that he didn’t expect to play week-in, week-out for the Red Devils.
“It doesn’t matter if they buy me for, I don’t know, £38m or £40m, I am not guaranteed to play the games,” the former Shakhtar Donetsk man said.
“So I am trying to do my best during the training to earn this place to play and then we will see, because I don’t think I will play every game, depending on the tactical situation, depending on the opponent. But I will do everything to try and help the team.”