Tuesday 19 March 2019

Henrikh to come in from the cold for rare start

Bristol City v Man United

Henrikh Mkhitaryan hasn’t been in favour at Old Trafford for a while
Henrikh Mkhitaryan hasn’t been in favour at Old Trafford for a while

Jose Mourinho is set to recall Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Manchester United's League Cup quarter-final at Championship side Bristol City tonight.

The Armenia forward has fallen out of favour in recent weeks and not even made the bench for eight of United's last nine games.

His absence has led to speculation that he could be allowed to leave Old Trafford in the near future but manager Mourinho insists he remains in his thoughts.

Competition for attacking places is fierce with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all featuring regularly in matchday squads.

Mourinho said: "We need to take the game really seriously but I'm going to make a few changes and it's possible Miki is involved.

"In this moment we are playing with Mata, Lingard, Rashford or Martial and Lukaku, and the bench has been Ibra and one of the other ones - Martial or Rashford. There is no space for everybody because you need balance on the bench too."

Mourinho, who has key midfielder Paul Pogba available again after suspension, does not want to make wholesale changes for the trip to Ashton Gate.

The competition, which United won last season, now looks a more realistic route to silverware than the Premier League. United are still second in the table but already trail leaders Manchester City, who are unbeaten and showing no signs of weakness, by 11 points.

Mourinho also views the Robins, who are third in the Championship, as potentially tricky opposition and does not want to take chances.

The Portuguese said: "I'm making a few changes for the match, not many, because Bristol City are one of the best teams in the Championship.

"And for me now, the Championship is not the Championship any more of five, 10 years ago. The Championship is now high-quality teams with lots of high-quality players that could be playing in the Premier League easily."

Bristol City boss Lee Johnson has urged his players to believe they can emulate the club's famous giant-killing against Liverpool when they host United tonight. The Robins pulled off a shock 1-0 FA Cup third-round replay victory at Anfield in 1994, with Brian Tinnion netting the winner.

Johnson referred to that moment as he spoke ahead of tonight's match of his men needing to "feel somebody could be that hero" against United.

He said: "It is a fantastic game. When Man United come to town, I think it always brings that feeling of it being a big tie, and this club hasn't had it for a long time, probably back to people like Brian Tinnion, that iconic goal against Liverpool.

"The players have got to feel somebody could be that hero in this game."

City, victorious in their last four league games, go into the contest having already, in previous rounds, seen off three of United's fellow Premier League sides in Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace.

"We respect the fact they are going to have a world-class XI, whichever one they choose to put out," Johnson said.

"For us there is minimal pressure involved apart from that which we put on ourselves to perform.

"I think this is a difficult place to play (for visiting teams), and it will be on Wednesday given the atmosphere.

"I know our fans and it will be an unbelievable atmosphere, and if we can get on the front foot, cause a few problems, then who knows?"

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