There will be few aspects of thisÂ Manchester United season that willÂ linger long in the memory but as a motif for the frustration and the mishaps that have plagued the Jose Mourinho era then Romelu Lukaku standing on the ball and injuring himself falling over will take some beating.
The Belgian scored his teamâs first to end a run without a goal that had stretched back to Sept 15 although they had already fallen two down within 20 minutes against a Southampton team that has traditionally struggled to score goals at their own stadium. United gave themselves the proverbial mountain to climb and spent the rest of the game stumbling within sight of the peak,Â especially Lukaku â amid another new formation that did not work.
With a fresh injury to Chris Smalling,Â Mourinho selected three centre-backs, two of whom â Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay â are not, strictly speaking, centre-backs. He dropped Anthony Martial, brought back in Ander Herrera and Lukaku and persevered with Paul Pogba who found himself overshadowed by Mario Lemina. The Saints midfielder seemed to revel in the limelight of a TV game against high-profile opposition and he was not the only home player who outperformed his opposite number.
It is a measure of how far standards have fallen at United that Mourinho did not seem that hurt by a draw which means his team have taken two points from their last three league games and are so far behind leaders Manchester City it has ceased to be an issue. There are 16 points between the Manchester clubs now and United could be nine off the Champions League places depending on how results fall on today.
The most biting criticism of hisÂ players from Mourinho was a strange remark about his lack of âmad dogsâ in midfield, something he lamented in his television interviews and was later keen to contextualise so as not to offend dogs in general. âBecause I love them,â he added, âI think they are better than many men.â Speaking to BT Sport he said that United had lacked intensity. âIt doesnât matter about the system, it has to do with the characteristics of the players and we donât have many, with all respect, mad dogs â the ones who fight for the ball all the time and press. We donât have many with that spirit.â