Cape Town - Jose Mourinho has explained why Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been left out of the Manchester United squad in recent matches.
The Armenian international has not been picked for the matchday squad in seven of United’s last eight games and made his last appearance as a substitute during United's 1-0 win over Brighton in late November.
Asked about Mkhitaryan's absence after the Red Devils’ 1-0 win over Bournemouth, Mourinho said that achieving a balanced squad had led to the Armenian being left out.
"I can only have six [outfield] players on the bench and I try to have some balance on the bench. I had two defenders and [Daley] Blind who can play in different areas. I had Ashley Young to cover me all of the wing and the wing-back position," he said
"I had [Ander] Herrera as a midfield player, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] as a striker and Marcus [Rashford] as a second striker and winger. I played [Anthony] Martial, [Juan] Mata and [Jesse] Lingard in the team. To have Micki means that I don't have one of them and, in this moment, I believe the other ones they deserve [the chance to play].”
Mkhitaryan started the season in great form with five assists in two games but has fallen out of favour in recent weeks.
Reports said that the player met with Mourinho over the weekend to discuss his future.
Meanwhile, Mourinho insisted that the title race is not over despite the gaping 11-point gap between second-placed United and runaway leaders Manchester City.
"We play match after match and the next we have to try to win. We have a difficult one at West Brom and we try match after match," he said.
"It is only over in May. If it is over now I go on holiday to Brazil or Los Angeles."