Jose Mourinho has explained Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s absence, saying that the Armenian’s form is simply not good enough for him to be selected.

Mkhitaryan had a poor run of form in the autumn and has not played since a substitute appearance in the 1-0 win over Brighton. Mourinho has played with a front three of Lukaku, Martial and Rashford in some recent games and has favoured Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard in others.

Lingard in particular has forced his way in front of the former Dortmund schemer in the pecking order.

“I can only have six players on the bench and I try to have some balance on the bench,” Mourinho said after the win against Bournemouth. “I had two defenders, a central defender and Blind, that can play in different areas. I have Ashley Young to cover the wing and wing-backs position, Ander Herrera is a midfield player, Zlatan is a striker, Marcus as a second striker and a winger, I played Martial, Mata and Lingard in the team, to have Mkhi means I don’t have one of them. And at this moment I believe the others, they deserve it.”

Mkhitaryan’s future at Old Trafford has been thrown into doubt by this latest absence; with United looking for new stars to operate in that ‘number ten’ role such as Mesut Ozil, it seems as if his time may indeed be running out.