Mkhitaryan to step up for injury-hit United

LONDON • Henrikh Mkhitaryan insists he was never concerned about his Manchester United career despite making a slow start to life at Old Trafford.

The United playmaker made just one substitute appearance in 21/2 months earlier this season as he struggled for fitness and form following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund.

But, as the Armenian prepared for United's home game with West Bromwich Albion today, the 28-year-old claimed he was never concerned about his place in Jose Mourinho's plans.

"Our life is worthless without difficulties," Mkhitaryan said.

"Every person must be able to handle difficulties and the same concerns me.

"But it was not difficult for me to overcome these difficulties as I knew that sooner or later I would get my chance and I would use that."

PEAKS AND TROUGHS

Our life is worthless without difficulties. Every person must be able to handle difficulties and the same concerns me.

HENRIKH MKHITARYAN, Manchester United midfielder, feels fully settled at Old Trafford, having taken time to bed in.

Since being replaced at half time on his first league start, against Manchester City in September, Mkhitaryan has emerged as an increasingly influential figure in a United team who have won the League Cup and are still hunting success in the Europa and Premier Leagues.

And, having scored in Armenia's World Cup qualifying win over Kazakhstan at the weekend, he could return to the starting line-up for the visit of West Brom, having been on the bench for United's last outing, a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough two weeks ago.

United midfielder Paul Pogba, who suffered a hamstring injury in the Europa League win over FC Rostov, has not recovered in time to play.

He is one of five senior players unavailable for the return to league action.

Central defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both injured while on international duty with England, will also be absent.

Meanwhile, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Ander Herrera continue to serve suspensions.

"So we lose four and I think Paul Pogba is also out. So we lose five. So we are in a bit of trouble," said Mourinho, whose team are four points behind fourth-placed Liverpool in the race for Champions League qualification.

Having beaten Arsenal 3-1 in their last game before the international break to move to 43 points, West Brom's only significant concern is the form of leading striker Salomon Rondon.

The Venezuelan ended a 15-game goal drought this week when he scored for his country in a 3-1 defeat by Chile but is likely to be a substitute at Old Trafford.

With Rondon not due back from his international travels until 48 hours before kick-off, he is expected to be held back for the midweek trip to Watford with Wales forward Hal Robson-Kanu in line to start against United.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Mkhitaryan to step up for injury-hit United'. Print Edition | Subscribe