Friday 23 August 2019

Mkhitaryan injury 'scared me' - Jose

Mourinho: "When I watched the tackle on TV, I was a bit scared." Photo: Reuters

Ian Whittell

Jose Mourinho admits he feared Henrikh Mkhitaryan had suffered a serious injury when he was carried off on a stretcher during Sunday's victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

As the Manchester United manager prepared for two games in a week without the in-form Armenian, he revealed how he was "scared" when the £26m summer signing collapsed with an ankle injury following a heavy tackle from Danny Rose.

Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan was injured yesterday in the win over Spurs
Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan was injured yesterday in the win over Spurs

Tests have confirmed, however, that the forward should miss only two games - tomorrow's visit to Crystal Palace and the weekend trip to West Brom - although Mourinho would not give Wayne Rooney any encouragement in his hopes of starting just his second league game in three months.

"I knew that was coming," joked Mourinho when asked if Rooney would start. "Rooney, Rashford, Lingard, Ashley Young, Memphis Depay - that's a position where we have lots of players so that will not be another problem, to choose a player to play.

"The problem is Mkhitaryan was playing so, so well, and now he's not there. Hopefully he can play at Christmas, we believe it's possible. When I saw him on the stretcher I thought it would be more difficult.

"When I watched the tackle on TV, I was a bit scared. It's a pity because he is going to miss matches in his best period but at least we don't lose a player for so long."

Mkhitaryan started only one game for United in the first three months of the season, when he was substituted at half-time against Manchester City in September, but he has been excellent since he returned to the first XI at the end of last month.

"He needed the period of adaptation at every level and in that period he was a great professional because maybe another guy in this position would find excuses - he would blame the manager, the pitch, the weather, he would blame something, like many of the players now do," Mourinho said.

"But he was quiet, he closed his mouth, worked really hard waiting for this opportunity and is playing so well now. Hopefully a few matches out are not going to stop his evolution."

Mourinho responded to the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League, which pitches Paul Pogba, United's world-record signing, against his central-defender brother Florentin and his French club St-Etienne.

"Paul was laughing about it and for sure his brother is also laughing. It's a nice thing," Mourinho said. "The good thing is the travel distance. We were very unlucky in the group phase, we had to go very far, it was very difficult to go to Turkey, Ukraine. Now we go to France and it's not an easy period, there are lots of games."


Meanwhile, Leicester City have moved swiftly to tie up the £14m capture of Wilfred Ndidi as Claudio Ranieri steps up his preparations for the January transfer window.

The Genk defensive midfielder had his medical yesterday and will become the Premier League champions' first signing of the new year. The 19-year-old Nigeria international has agreed a five-year deal, which is expected to be announced after the window opens.

Leicester face Bournemouth tonight with Ranieri offering no assurances of an instant return for Danny Drinkwater, eligible after completing a three-match ban.

"It's difficult to change when everything goes wrong and you see your best players not playing well," Ranieri said. "But when you win you can realise better and choose better."

His Bournemouth counterpart Eddie Howe believes the club must press ahead with recently announced plans for what he said would be an "emotional" move from Dean Court to realise their potential.

"The stadium is a key factor moving forward," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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