Manchester United’s depth of squad means they have plenty of game-changers in reserve, according to midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
One look at the respective benches in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home to Liverpool highlighted the point the Armenia international was making.
With the hosts trailing Jose Mourinho sent on Rooney, one goal away from being the club’s record goalscorer, Mata and Fellaini, whose header against the post set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late equaliser.
Liverpool used just Philippe Coutinho, with Daniel Sturridge the only other player who could realistically have altered Jurgen Klopp’s attacking options.
Fellaini had probably the biggest impact of all the substitutes as his aerial threat gave the visitors some real issues but with Marcus Rashford also unused, there is no doubt the depth in United’s expensively-assembled squad has helped them close the gap to second place to just five points.
“Not only Marouane but also Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata put freshness in the team,” Mkhitaryan, who finished the match at left-back as a result of Mourinho’s tactical reshuffle to get more attacking options onto the pitch, told MUTV.
“They helped us a lot up front and we are happy that they could change something in our game. We are happy to have them coming on.”
Ibrahimovic may have salvaged a point but the result ended United’s nine-match winning run in all competitions.
They head to Stoke, not so much the difficult ground it used to be, this weekend looking to get things back on track with the added incentive of trying to leapfrog faltering Manchester City in fifth, just two points above them.
Mkhitaryan: “The atmosphere was amazing. I want to see more of this in the stadium. Thanks to the supporters." ???? pic.twitter.com/knzKK5458P
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 16, 2017
“We are not looking for records, we are doing our best to be in the top four and to do that you have to win games,” added Mkhitaryan.
“We do not think about records because one day they will break. We are just trying to do our job by winning every game.”
Regaining Champions League football remains the priority for United but with the gap narrowing to the teams chasing leaders Chelsea, seven points clear and 12 ahead of Mourinho’s side, there is plenty still at stake.
“We have to keep plodding away, Stoke next week, hopefully win that and the same against Hull in a difficult (EFL Cup semi-final) second leg and get through to the final,” said defender Phil Jones.
“There’s a lot to play for, a lot of points to play for so let’s just wait and see.
“I don’t think we played well (against Liverpool) but when you don’t play well and you don’t lose it’s a massive bonus.
“The lads have shown fantastic character, fantastic spirit, it’s difficult especially when we didn’t play so well in the first half to come out and get that equaliser.
“It’s just unfortunate we didn’t score the goal early enough to put them under a bit more pressure to get the second that we wanted.
“If we’d had a bit more time who knows, we might have got the winner.”