Monday 16 September 2019

Mourinho slams lack of heart as United held

Manchester United 0 Crystal Palace 0

Jose Mourinho criticised his side’s intensity. Photo: Reuters
Jose Mourinho criticised his side’s intensity. Photo: Reuters

Jamie Jackson

Manchester United were again bedevilled by their prevailing problem against Crystal Palace: a one-paced tempo of play that has hampered all vintages since Alex Ferguson retired in May 2013.

Jose Mourinho accused some of his players of lacking "heart" and of treating the match like just any old game.

"Not enough intensity, not enough desire," said the United manager. "We played a game like 'one more game' and I don't think the game is 'one more game'. I think it is a game we really need to win.

"It was a game we need to win, and my feeling is that there was not enough from the heart. You must play with brain, we must play also with heart and I think [there was] not enough heart."

Against a visiting team that have not tasted Premier League victory since mid-September, a near-hapless goalless draw is just not good enough. Mourinho is adamant that United will be in the top four come the festive season but, on this showing, the prospect is unlikely.

Mourinho reinstated Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba following injury. They joined Matteo Darmian, making only a second league start, and Juan Mata as the manager's four changes, Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Alexis Sánchez dropping out.

Roy Hodgson made only one adjustment, bringing back Wilfried Zaha.

United should have scored early on. Nemanja Matic floated a high ball in and after Anthony Martial appeared to handle to control, he fluffed the chance.

Opposite United's 4-2-3-1, Palace lined up in a classic Hodgson shape of 4-4-2 that had Zaha and Andros Townsend at its head. This seemed likely to waste Zaha if he received little service and so it proved. When he dropped deep, or pulled left to receive the ball, suddenly United had a problem.

Then Mata pinged the ball to Jesse Lingard and when he turned this in to Pogba, the shot kept Wayne Hennessey honest in the Palace goal.

Zaha was then close to profiting from an errant Lingard pass. The 26-year-old pulled the trigger in a flash before David de Gea watched the ball go wide with relief. Now Palace were wasteful.

When they broke via Max Meyer, he found Zaha and the correct ball would expose the back-pedalling United rearguard. Zaha did make the pass but Patrick van Aanholt connected poorly and Mourinho's men escaped.

This wakened them and when Mata flipped a free-kick in from close to the right corner flag, Chris Smalling became the latest to miss. Lingard - because of a Hennessey save - and Martial - because of a weak header - then added to the tally of spurned opportunities and Mourinho did well to conceal his frustration.

The mediocre first-half fare could have been worse for United, though, had a Palace goal not been rightly disallowed for offside after Cheikhou Kouyaté and Victor Lindelof connected with the ball at the same time.

United's display had left many inside the stadium disgruntled so a better second half was needed. They did begin brightly. Mata and Ashley Young probed along the left channel and the latter forced Hennessey into a save low to his left. Lukaku pounced on the rebound to turn home but he was adjudged - again, correctly - to be offside.

Mourinho had seen enough. Off came Mata and Lingard and on came Fellaini and Rashford.

Yet it was United who scrambled now as De Gea repelled a 20-yard Kouyaté shot and then Van Aanholt's follow-up.

Mourinho's final move was to bring Sánchez into the action for the misfiring Pogba. When Rashford made a double-tackle, suddenly the Chilean had possession and Lukaku and Martial were joining him in a red wave. Yet Sánchez's pass was awry and another United attack faltered. So did Matic - several times - when trying to apprehend Townsend. Instead, the forward barged through and hit a right-foot effort wide of De Gea's right post to home relief.

From here the pattern continued of low quality. United may have enjoyed far greater possession but what does this matter if nothing is made of it? They ended in and around Palace's goal and Lukaku had one header saved well by Hennessey. It all, though, feels a little desperate for Mourinho and his team.


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