Monday, 17 December 2018
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Jose Mourinho bemoans lack of ‘mad dogs’ in Man Utd midfield after lacklustre draw at Southampton – The Telegraph

There will be few aspects of this  Manchester United season that will  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 team’s 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,  especially Lukaku – amid another new formation that did not work.

With a fresh injury to Chris Smalling, Mourinho selected three centre-backs, two of whom – Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay – 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 his  players from Mourinho was a strange remark about his lack of “mad dogs” in midfield, something he lamented in his television interviews and was later keen to contextualise so as not to offend dogs in general. “Because I love them,” he added, “I think they are better than many men.” Speaking to BT Sport he said that United had lacked intensity. “It doesn’t matter about the system, it has to do with the characteristics of the players and we don’t have many, with all respect, mad dogs – the ones who fight for the ball all the time and press. We don’t have many with that spirit.”

Herrera celebrates

Ander Herrera celebrates making it 2-2

Credit:
 Action Images 

Later he clarified that Marcus Rashford, creator of both United’s goals, had been his mad dog for the evening until he came off with tiredness and injury.

Some United fans had booed that  decision although Mourinho said the striker was playing with a previous  injury and had asked to be withdrawn. “I would say Marcus was a mad dog  until he was very, very tired and with little problems.

“Overall I’m not happy with the  result, but I cannot be critical, I thought the spirit and desire was good. If they didn’t do better then it’s because they weren’t able to do it.”

With Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly injured, Marcos Rojo was on the bench although he was not judged fit to start. “A situation of fragility,” Mourinho said of his defence, “a total situation of fragility.”

Southampton attacked well at the beginning with Mark Hughes giving a first league start to the 18-year-old striker Michael Obafemi and a league debut to 19-year-old Yan Valery who played as a right wing-back.

It was a magnificently entertaining first half between two sides who had, it seemed, only a very loose idea of what their managers wanted but were going to keep trying to get it right no matter how many attempts it took.

Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea dives but can't reach the ball as Southampton's German-born Portuguese defender Cedric Soares scores Southampton's second goal from a free kick during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on December 1, 2018. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications.

Southampton raced into a 2-0 lead

Credit:
AFP

Hughes said he selected Obafemi for his “blinding pace” and the young Irish international responded by making the first goal for Stuart Armstrong after a run from Nathan Redmond opened up the United defence. The ball was worked right to Armstrong to drive in his third goal in two games.

“Overall I can’t be disappointed with that performance,” Hughes said. “We created more efforts on goal. Clearly we need to defend better in those  moments when they scored but we never came under sustained pressure.”

Even better was the Cedric Soares free-kick from the left channel which he whipped over the wall and past  David de Gea. That had been conceded via a Rashford foul on Lemina on the edge of the area.

It was Rashford who made something from nothing from Pogba’s pass on 33 minutes, driving forward into the Saints half and then rolling the ball into Lukaku’s path to finish. Rashford again made the chance for Herrera on 39 minutes, getting to the byeline and  cutting the ball back for the midfielder to direct it in with the inside of his heel and his back to goal.

In the second half it was notable that Lukaku’s touch was going badly awry, culminating in him injuring himself standing on the ball and then falling. When that awkward observation was put to Mourinho he simply replied: “So tell that. Write that. Don’t ask me.”

There was one more big save from De Gea before the end, flinging himself at a Redmond shot after Pogba had coughed up possession to Lemina for no reason. No question who was the bigger dog in that particular fight and it was certainly not the Frenchman with the big reputation.

7:26PM

That was poor

United played that second half like they were winning 2-0. Maybe four shots on goal in the last 45 minutes? Southampton can take positives from that game but if United had been playing a confident, good side, they’d have been dismantled here today. 

7:23PM

FULL TIME

Man Utd hold Southampton to a draw. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

7:22PM

90 mins +4 – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Big chance for Southampton now. Young is booked for bringing Gabbiadini down near Beckham territory. They’ve already scored one… and Young says Gabbiadini has bought that free-kick. He has gone down very easily.

This might be the last chance of the game.

Gabbiadini will take it… please don’t shoot… don’t shoot… he’s shot. The thing is punted over the bar.

7:21PM

90 mins +2 – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

I don’t understand why Pogba keeps slowing down an already turtle-speed game whenever he gets the ball. It’d make sense if this match was chaotic and he wanted to calm the tempo to avoid it turning into pinball… but there’s no sense of urgency. Mourinho is clearly frustrated with his team as he gestures to his assistants on the bench.

7:19PM

90 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Fellaini has been moved from midfield to his position of ‘battering ram’. Four minutes of injury time to come… and Young has a free-kick to take on the left of the box. 

It’s crossed in… McCarthy catches. 

[sighs]

7:16PM

87 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Lukaku is subbed for Lingard, which should give United far more defensively and perhaps restore some energy to the attack. I really like Lukaku as a player but when his confidence is down he just doesn’t bring enough. 

United are passing sideways slowly and it’s boring. They are drawing with Southampton and don’t look like they’re desperate to change that.

7:12PM

85 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Mourinho throws his arms out in disgust as Pogba tries a little trick on the edge of the area which is never, ever going to work. What on earth is he doing? He’s treating it like it’s five-a-side. 

Lukaku has now injured himself by treading on the ball and falling over it. He may have tweaked his knee somehow there.

To repeat: Lukaku’s first touch is so bad that he’s genuinely injured himself.

7:11PM

83 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

The corner is sliced to the penalty spot and Hojbjerg attacks it but heads wide. A clever little move but it’s not worked this time.

A ball into the channel for Lukaku goes behind for a goal kick. Man Utd really aren’t at it here, just tamely going through the motions, trying to get a draw with a team 19th in the table. 

7:08PM

80 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Rashford is taken off for Martial in a like for like swap. United sit really deep as Southampton move around their half of the pitch. Pogba wins the ball, hits a forward pass and it comes off the referee, spoiling the move. He apologises for it but that’s pretty much ruined a counter-attacking chance. 

Pogba has the ball again, stands on it for ages and slows the play down – again – and then gives the ball away. Redmond takes it off him and shoots… oooocha that is close. De Gea has to dive and turn it over the bar!

7:05PM

77 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Redmond hits a bad shot over the bar, Hojbjerg hits a much better shot straight at De Gea.

Can Southampton find another goal? There really isn’t a lot of ‘pashun’ in this match, it feels pretty safe as a draw.

7:02PM

74 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Shaw gets a nice little ovation as he makes his way off the pitch. He used to play here, you see. 

Dalot has gone to right-back, Young to left… and he’s already made use of that change, going past  Valery and hitting a low cross to the near post. McCarthy dives and smothers it.

7:01PM

72 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Shaw has gone down with an injury now. Diogo Dalot will come on to replace him.

6:59PM

70 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

Armstrong’s movement allows him to get into space and link forward passes. He then finds Gabbiadini on the edge of the area and he tries an outside-of-the-boot effort at goal which is struck straight at De Gea.

Lukaku drops all the way to right-back to help win the ball, then chips it wide to Rashford, who holds it up. Then stands on the ball. Stands some more… and switches play. It’s not being played at an electrifying place, you’d almost think both teams were fine with a draw.

6:56PM

68 mins – Southampton 2 Man Utd 2

After some patient possession, McTominay has just punted the ball out for a goal kick. For literally no reason.