Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been offered no assurances over his long-term Manchester United future by Jose Mourinho.
The Armenian was one of Mourinho’s first signings in the summer of 2016 but inconsistency has blighted the playmaker since he joined from Borussia Dortmund for £26.3million.
Mkhitaryan started just one Premier League game in the first four months of last season owing to a thigh injury and his manager’s belief he needed time to adapt – and was taken off at half-time in the game he began.
He seemed to have turned the corner in December, though, and ended the campaign with 11 goals, including his improvised scorpion-kick strike against Sunderland and the second in United’s Europa League final win over Ajax.
The 29-year-old began this campaign with five assists in the first three top-flight fixtures but his form tailed off again and having been substituted at half-time against Derby in their most recent game – a move Mourinho later apologised for – his name has been littered in gossip columns regarding a potential exit this month.
“My approach to players is that every player has a price,” Mourinho said when asked directly about whether Mkhitaryan would stay.
“It doesn’t matter who he is. It doesn’t matter the level. It doesn’t matter the prestige, the status. I think every player has a price.
“And I am not the kind of blind manager…blind in the sense of, this player is untouchable, can never be sold. I think every player has a price.
“So when the transfer window is open, it’s also open for any club that is interested in our players. Then it’s up to us to make the decision: yes or no. It’s up to us to decide what we think is the right price.
“But Mkhitaryan played the last match in the FA Cup and probably will play the next one (against Stoke). He’s a little bit the same in relation to other players that are involved in this gossip of the transfer market.
“He is our player and a very good player. So Saturday (he is) training, then Sunday (he is) selected and Monday (he will) play.”
One rumour is that Mkhitaryan could be used as a potential makeweight in a deal for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, a player Mourinho called “phenomenal” on Friday.
Even if the United boss makes a rare foray into the mid-season market, he does not believe any incomings will determine whether or not current Premier League leaders Manchester City can be overhauled.
City face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday and victory for Pep Guardiola’s side would lift them 18 points clear of United.
“It’s a very important difference of points, I was there before,” Mourinho added.
“It gives a lot of tranquillity and takes away any kind of pressure from the guy that comes behind you.
“I think it’s a very comfortable advantage and they sit on that. I don’t think it’s about the transfer window for us or the other teams close to us – Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham.
“I don’t think it’s about transfers. It’s about continuing to win, getting the maximum possible points and seeing what happens.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
With the transfer window now open the rumour mill is in overdrive, so with that in mind, we take a look at the top stories doing the rounds in the media today.
LIVERPOOL JOIN SANCHEZ CHASE
Liverpool will battle Manchester City and Manchester United for the race to sign Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, according to the Mirror.
The report says Jurgen Klopp’s side will happily meet the Gunners’ £35million valuation with United thought to be leading the chase for the Chilean.
Even with the Philippe Coutinho money bloating Liverpool’s wallet, it’s not within their current wage structure or transfer strategy to sign a 29-year-old who has reportedly been offered £285,000 per week by City and £300,000 a week by United.
Sanchez is thought to prefer a move to the Etihad Stadium to reunite with Pep Guardiola but the Premier League leaders are said to be put off by the mounting fees involved to sign the Chilean and United have no jumped the queue.
Throwing Liverpool into the mix seems like nothing but agent talk in an attempt to get the best deal for Sanchez who looks almost certain to leave this month.
HAMMERS WANT FELLAINI
West Ham are weighing up a move for Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, reports the Star.
The Belgium international is out of contract at the conclusion of this season and has reportedly turned down £170,000 per week extension as he searches for more first-team opportunities.
David Moyes and Fellaini is just a match made in heaven. Moyes of course brought him to England when he signed for Everton a decade ago and he was also his first capture as United boss.
The 30-year-old has offers from Besiktas, Galatasaray and Chinese Super League clubs but a route to remain in the Premier League could be the most tempting.
Naby Keita was among the scorers as RB Leipzig moved above Schalke and into second place in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 home victory over the Gelsenkirchen outfit.
Amid continued talk about the possibility of his move to Liverpool being brought forward from the summer to this month, Keita gave the hosts the lead in the 41st minute with a strike from outside the box that took a considerable deflection off Naldo.
Here, we analyse the performance of Keita before he was substituted in the 68th minute.
Goals – 1
Assists – 0
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 1
Touches – 41
Passes – 24
Key passes – 2
Dribbles – 1
Dispossessed – 2
With Keita in the starting XI, speculation an early move to Anfield is imminent would appear premature. Neither the player, Liverpool or RB Leipzig would want to risk injury so close to a switch but regardless there are plenty of takeaways from his peformance.
Deployed in a midfield trio with boss Ralph Hasenhuttl opting for a 4-3-3, Keita operated on the left in a role similar to that of Philippe Coutinho when he was tasked in an attacking midfield spot. Keita, though, showed why he’s a different animal entirely to the Brazilian.
Coutinho is full of flare and jinks his way past defenders with acute skill and while the Guinea international displayed his dribbling ability, it’s born out of his powerful running.
Time and time again he drove the Schalke backline into retreat and his positional sense to take up dangerous spots in behind the defence had their holding midfield Max Meyer struggling to hold him down.
He was Leipzig’s attacking thrust as he slalomed into the box, with or without the ball, and it was like watching a Ferrari navigate the turns of the Nurburgring.
On two occasions in the first 45 he powered past defenders into dangerous positions and a penalty shout in particular showed his class after a quick one-two following neat work out wide put him in threatening territory.
Granted, his goal arrived with a slice of fortune from a deflection off Naldo but the fact is he deserved that luck for constantly demanding the ball.
He was efficient and effective but the second 45 brought the obvious sign of improvement required.
Keita wants the ball all the time, whether from his teammates or from the opponent but that eagerness can cloud his judgement and he frequently committed fouls. They were reckless and mistimed and he was often miles away from the ball.
It’s why after a yellow he was shortly brought off because the 22-year-old was heading for the tunnel if it wasn’t the bench.
A display which is a microcosm of his season – the good and bad.
No celebration for Keita after his third goal in Bundesliga this season. Watch. pic.twitter.com/r4dVD5eAbU— Amadou Makadji™ 🇬🇳 (@makadjiamadou) January 13, 2018
12th min PENALTY SHOUT: A real indication of Keita’s attacking thrust as he gathers the ball wide left, shows neat footwork to sprint past his man and a quick one-two releases the midfielder into the box before Benjamin Stambouli dives in to ricochet the ball out. Keita wants a penalty but the official waves for a goalkick.
27th min FOUL: The foul count is totting up already as just inside the Schalke half, Keita needlessly chops Alessandro Schopf’s standing leg before an aerial ball even drops near the pair.
33rd min CHANCE: Formidable acceleration from the Guinea international as again Keita drives into the area only for Naldo to slide across to divert his threatening pass out for a corner.
41st min GOAL: Kevin Kampl slaloms his way down the left and he cuts the ball inside to Keita who in a central position has time to smash a thunderous strike which looks destined for the bottom corner only for a slight deflection to take it down the middle. No celebration from the 22-year-old – a sign he’s off?
53rd min YELLOW CARD: And that’s his fifth booking of the season which means he’ll be suspended for next Saturday’s clash with Freiburg. Good tracking back from Keita but he overstretches trying to dispossess Schopf and concedes a freekick. A cumulative yellow rather than for the individual challenge.
68th min SUBSTITUTED: On that yellow card, Keita is brought off for Yussuf Poulsen.
Positives: energy, pace, positional intelligence and efficiency on the ball. Negatives: reckless and mistimed challenges.
The display against Schalke was a microcosm of what Keita offers. His virtue and vice is that he relentlessly seeks the ball but it’s for that reason he commits so many fouls.
Still, he was superb in the first half and that alone will be enough to provide plenty of excitement for Liverpool supporters.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com