Thursday 21 September 2017

Rashford in 'dive' storm as United's woes mount

Manchester Utd 1 Swansea City 1

United's Marcus Rashford is fouled by Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for a penalty at Old Trafford. Photo:: Martin Rickett/PA
United's Marcus Rashford is fouled by Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for a penalty at Old Trafford. Photo:: Martin Rickett/PA

James Ducker

This would have been a costly afternoon even if Manchester United had held on to claim an undeserved victory, but, by the end, it was not just two more players, but two more points at Old Trafford that Jose Mourinho had lost.

For the first time in their 139-year history, United have gone 25 successive league matches undefeated in a single season, but seldom can an unbeaten record have been so misleading.

This was United's 12th draw during that run and sixth in eight home outings since the turn of the year.

Mourinho is now fretting over how much his drained, depleted side have left in the tank, as he aimed another assault on the debilitating nature of a schedule he described as "not human" and potentially calamitous to their season.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial (left) and Swansea City's Jordan Ayew (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester United's Anthony Martial (left) and Swansea City's Jordan Ayew (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Things could have got a lot worse here than a late equaliser from Gylfi Sigurdsson and injuries to Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly, who, until his departure shortly after the hour, was United's only fit, recognised centre-half.

United rode their luck at the end of both halves against a Swansea side who again proved that they will not give up their Premier League residency without a fight.

Swansea manager Paul Clement accused United striker Marcus Rashford of conning referee Neil Swarbrick to win a penalty, from which Wayne Rooney put his side in front against the run of play on the cusp of half-time with his first league goal at Old Trafford this season.

Then Clement cursed his luck again when Fernando Llorente spurned a glorious chance in stoppage time.

Boost

With more composure, Llorente could have given Swansea's survival prospects a huge boost and as good as ended United's top-four hopes in the process.

Swansea City's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson after scoring their side's goal. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Swansea City's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson after scoring their side's goal. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Clement was incandescent about the penalty decision. Lukasz Fabianski had pulled his hands back as Rashford, released by Jesse Lingard, advanced. The England forward already appeared to be going down when he ran into the Swansea goalkeeper's path.

A hesitant Swarbrick looked to his assistant for help before rather sheepishly awarding the spot kick.

Clement said: "The referee said after the game that he was sure what he had seen. He was just confirming with the assistant, but I don't know why he even asked him because he (the assistant) was almost as far away as I was.

"Then the replays showed the player had deceived the referee. I'm not saying cheat (about Rashford), I'm saying deceived. Lukasz was furious. I don't think he (Swarbrick) was sure.

"It's unbelievable that in this day and age, with the technology available, the only people that don't get help are the ones who most need it."

Mourinho claimed only that he had "Marcus's opinion and he said that the goalkeeper touched him", but the Portuguese clearly had more pressing matters on his mind.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford battles with Swansea City's Federico Fernandez. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford battles with Swansea City's Federico Fernandez. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters

"I don't want to analyse my team today because I would give you so many weaknesses," Mourinho said, after stressing that he could not isolate a sloppy, sluggish performance in the context of playing nine games in April.

Mourinho's plans to give Antonio Valencia a rest were in tatters inside nine minutes when Shaw succumbed to a suspected ankle injury that the manager rather sarcastically suggested "must be a very big injury" to have forced the left-back's exit so early. Their uneasy relationship continues.

Bailly, having hurt himself in a challenge with Llorente, pulled up a couple of minutes later.

With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling not expected to be back for the first leg of United's Europa League semi-final at Celta Vigo on Thursday, Mourinho raised the prospect of playing Michael Carrick, Matteo Darmian or Axel Tuanzebe at centre-half alongside Daley Blind.

He also suggested he could play the U-23 team in their final league game against Crystal Palace on May 21 if the top four is out of reach and they have reached the Europa League final, which takes place three days later.

Play as poorly as they did here against Celta and that might not be a worry.

Their passing was off, there was little pressure on the ball and fouls were committed habitually.

David de Gea saved from Llorente and Jordan Ayew and only Anthony Martial, who set up Lingard for a golden chance and drew a couple of stops from Fabianski, asked any real questions of Swansea, who should have made more of a succession of dead-ball situations.

However, a tired Rooney bundled over Leroy Fer and, from the resulting free kick, Sigurdsson whipped the ball into the corner which Ander Herrera had been occupying before being ordered off the goalline.

If Llorente had not missed from six yards from another pinpoint Sigurdsson free-kick with seconds left, Clement might not have been quite so incensed by the penalty award.

© Daily Telegraph, London.

Telegraph.co.uk

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport