LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Manchester United midfielder Henrik Mkhitaryan does not have a serious ankle injury and could be fit for the Christmas programme of games, manager Jose Mourinho said on Monday.
The Armenian scored his first Premier League goal in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday before leaving the pitch on a stretcher in the closing minutes.
“Hopefully, Mkhitaryan can play at Christmas,” Mourinho told a news conference.
“We believe it’s possible. When I saw him on the stretcher, I thought it was more difficult; when I watch the tackle on TV, I was a bit scared, but no. It’s a pity, because he’s going to miss matches in his best period, but at least we won’t lose a player for so long.”
Mkhitaryan has started the last four matches after a difficult start to his United career but will not play against Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Mourinho, however, has more options in defence following the return to fitness of Eric Bailly and he has been pleased with the makeshift central pairing of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo in recent weeks.
”They’ve done very well,“ Mourinho said. ”They’re playing well, they’re playing more than ever and better than ever, and now we have a third central defender to rotate.
“There was a big improvement in (Jones‘s) condition. Now he looks fresh, sharp, fast, agile and played six matches without a problem. I don’t remember when he did that.”
United’s win over Spurs, their first in four league matches, kept them sixth in the table ahead of the trip to 15th-placed Palace, and they were drawn on Monday against St Etienne in the Europa league last 32.
“St Etienne have lots of tradition. People of my generation never forget the (Michel) Platini team. Man United is one of the big names in the competition. It will be hard but we have two months to forget it,” Mourinho said.
United midfielder Paul Pogba could face his brother Florentin who plays for the French team.
“Paul was already laughing and his brother also,” Mourinho said.
“The good thing is travel. We had to go very far in the group phase. France is an easy flight, easy period. That is good.” (Reporting by Ed Osmond)