Thursday 20 October 2016

Henrikh Mkhitaryan hoping to launch Manchester United career against Fenerbahce

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Manchester United forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been tipped to return to his optimum level by Jose Mourinho.

The Turkish side visit Old Trafford with Mourinho balancing his squad's commitments in a week in which they drew at Liverpool on Monday and face a trip to his former club Chelsea on Sunday.

It appears to be the perfect chance for the Armenian midfielder to start demonstrating his worth after a disappointing start to his career in English football.

Mkhitaryan has started just one game for Mourinho – the derby ­defeat at home by Manchester City in the middle of last month in which he was substituted at half-time – and has been hampered since by a thigh injury.

"He was injured for quite a long time," said Mourinho. "Now he is not injured any more. He has been training with the team without any limitation. I cannot confirm if he plays tomorrow. Now he is fit and now it is time for him to go back to the levels we know he can achieve."

Mourinho was similarly vague over whether Wayne Rooney, the club captain who has lost his starting place for both club and country this month, would start against Fenerbahce.

Rooney made his United debut against the Turkish side in September 2004, scoring a hat-trick in a Champions League victory, but his career is clearly at a crossroads some 12 years later.

"Wayne is working well, he is one of those responsible for the ­atmosphere for the players," insisted Mourinho. "He is positive, he is a good example. We count on him to start or be on the bench. He will be there tomorrow."

Mourinho, meanwhile, insists he does not want another United ­striker, teenager Marcus Rashford, to play in next summer's Under-21 European Championship if he is an established member of the senior squad by that point.

Capped five times, by three England managers, Rashford is expected to be a regular feature in the senior squad for the remainder of this season and that will lead the United manager to argue that he should not be selected for the tournament in Poland next June.

"We are in mid-October, the Championships will be in the summer," said Mourinho. "If the player becomes a regular in the ‘A' national team, if you want to call it that, and ­established, then to say it is important for his development with the under-21s makes no sense.

"It's the same that he's a regular here with us, and then we are going to play him in the under-23 championship because we want to beat somebody and he can give us a help in that.

"If he's an under-21 player in the national team, then he is an under-21 player and there is no discussion about that. But if he ­becomes a regular choice for Gareth Southgate in the first team, then we have to speak because we don't want him going."

The only player whom Mourinho would confirm has a starting role tonight is England left-back Luke Shaw. Mopurinho publicly criticised Shaw after last month's defeat at Watford and the defender has not started since, although Shaw claimed he had taken the incident in his stride.

"Of course," he said. "I said ­before I'm a grown man and I can take what the manager said. I'm still young and I need to take on board what he said and improve. I was disappointed with the result but not what the manager said."

Fenerbahce's plans for the visit to Old Trafford were disrupted, along with their flight, when the team were forced to land in Budapest after a crack appeared in their plane's windscreen, the result of a collision with a bird.

Former United forward Robin van Persie, who scored 48 goals in three season at Old Trafford, is expected to start against his former club with Shaw conscious that the 33-year-old Dutchman still poses a threat.

"We know what his qualities are," said Shaw. "Some times with quality like that, even if you know what they do, it is very hard to stop. I had a season with him here and managed to see how good he was in training and the games he played."



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