Jose Mourinho says Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata were better options than £26m signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan in United’s opening matches.
The Armenian was named on the substitutes bench for the Community Shield and United’s opening Premier League match at Bournemouth – getting on in both for a combined total of 16 minutes of action.
And Red Devils boss Mourinho has now revealed Mkhitaryan hasn’t started yet because there have been ‘better options’ than him for those first two games of the season.
“Options,” Mourinho replied when asked about Mkhitaryan’s recent omissions. “I went to the game against Leicester and I was reading the game and I thought we needed the speed of Jesse Lingard.
“And against Bournemouth, I thought they wanted to press really high, and a player like Mata coming inside could reach some spaces behind the lines of pressure and it could be very useful for us. And I decided to play Rooney both games in that position close to Zlatan and I didn’t start with Mikhy.
“Some managers when they buy players, when it is their decision to buy players, the first thing they think is to protect themselves and to protect their choices. The players they buy have to play all the time. I am not like this. Before me comes the team, and what I think is the best for the team.”
The former Borussia Dortmund star will be hoping for substantial game time against Southampton on Friday night and Mourinho has offered him cause for hope.
He added: “In those two matches, Mata and Lingard were the best options for the team, adapted to the reality of the Premier League so I made that decision.
“But Mkhitaryan is a super football player and he will be given a lot of opportunities this season.”