Manchester United are lacking in “mad dogs” in midfield, manager Jose Mourinho said after his side recovered from a terrible start but were still held to a disappointing draw at struggling Southampton.
Mourinho’s side were facing an embarrassing defeat early on as the Saints went into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes.
Marcus Rashford inspired a comeback before half-time, with two goals in six minutes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera earning the visitors a point, but it was another unconvincing display.
Mourinho – who played two midfielders in a back three because of injury problems – bemoaned his side’s inability to take control of the match.
“It doesn’t matter the system we play,” Mourinho said. “(Not winning) has to do with the characteristics of the players.
“With all due respect, we don’t have many mad dogs that bite the ball and press all the time. We don’t have many people with that spirit.”
Neither side were able to mount any real pressure in the second half, with the draw leaving the Saints in the relegation zone in 18th with just one win in their past 15 Premier League games, including last season.
Mark Hughes’ side will reflect on a costly capitulation at the end of the first half after fine goals from Stuart Armstrong and Cedric Soares had seemingly put them in control.
United move seventh – still six points off a Champions League place and a massive 16 shy of the lead held by rivals Manchester City.
Makeshift and make do?
On the face of it, this is a bad result for a Manchester United side harbouring hopes of a top-four finish – but it could have been worse, as a Southampton side with just one league win all season punished a sloppy opening.
United have spent hundreds of millions of pounds under Mourinho but not for the first time this season started with a makeshift defence. Midfielders Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic started in a back three, with Marcos Rojo only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench.