Friday 19 January 2018

Recklessness rife at troubled Manchester United on and off the field

Mourinho moaning continues after latest draw

Jose Mourinho and Marouane Fellaini. Photo: Getty
Jose Mourinho and Marouane Fellaini. Photo: Getty

Jason Burt

There were bitter complaints, frustration and lashing out. And that was just Jose Mourinho in his post-match press conference.

Everton 1 Manchester United 1

On the pitch? There were also bitter complaints, frustration and lashing out as Manchester United recorded yet another draw in a contest against Everton that they could have won but could also have ended up with just nine men.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United tangles with Seamus Coleman. Photo: Getty
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United tangles with Seamus Coleman. Photo: Getty

Mourinho has rued his luck this season but United also rode it on this occasion, with Marcos Rojo - in particular - fortunate not to be shown a red card for a horrendous lunge and, maybe, Zlatan Ibrahimovic for another challenge which was not seen by referee Michael Oliver.

They eventually tossed away their advantage when the footballer-turned-occasional-liability Marouane Fellaini came on to concede a penalty against his former club with what was probably his first touch; or rather failure to get a touch as he waved a leg and brought down Idrissa Gueye. How they lapped that one up at Goodison Park.

Mourinho said he did not see that incident; did not see the Rojo lunge. But he did have plenty else to say in a nevertheless clipped, curt post-match rant.

"You have questions?" he said when asked how he was going to convert draws into wins (it is two in 11 in the Premier League now with United eight points adrift of fourth place and in rising jeopardy of missing out on the top four).

Leighton Baines of Everton scores the equaliser. Photo: Getty
Leighton Baines of Everton scores the equaliser. Photo: Getty

"You have to make a decision," he added - you being the journalists, of course.

"When my team are playing pragmatic football and winning matches and winning titles you say it is not right or nice. My team are (now) playing well…

"You have teams getting results who defend and you say it is beautiful. You have to make a decision."

That caused puzzlement. Which out of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur - the five above United - is Mourinho's team playing better than?

Leighton Baines of Everton celebrates as he scores the equaliser. Photo: Getty
Leighton Baines of Everton celebrates as he scores the equaliser. Photo: Getty

Which of those five are parking the bus and grinding out the results?

Maybe Spurs - next Sunday's visitors at Old Trafford - are not on peak form but they blasted five past Swansea City and certainly do not lack attacking intent.

The problem for Mourinho - and that was at the heart of his tetchiness - is that he and his team have no-one to blame but themselves as they faced an Everton side struggling for belief and desperately needed a result to act as some kind of rallying point after one win - and five defeats - in nine.

"You saw maybe a little bit of lack of confidence on the ball and that's because of the last few results but we will be back," Koeman said.

"That's why we said 'OK, maybe we should play a bit more direct."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United (9) celebrates with team mates after his goal. Photo Getty
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United (9) celebrates with team mates after his goal. Photo Getty

Everton certainly did that - and unapologetically so; again to Mourinho's annoyance.

"Everything is direct," he said dismissively when questioned whether he regretted bringing Fellani on.

"The answer is obvious…when you have a player with two metres [height] you play the player in front of the defensive line to help win the match." Or not; as it turned out.

It was, in truth, a desperately-disappointing contest which only fired late on.

Mourinho's substitutions did not work; Koeman's did. It happens. And perhaps the United manager will reflect that it did not all go against him.

There were reckless challenges and reckless goalkeeping, especially in a first-half which started bleakly, with stray passes and a physical edge, and rarely rose above that and quite how Oliver did not send off Rojo was astonishing.

The defender launched himself, two-footed, off the ground, at Gueye and caught the midfielder. Somehow Oliver deemed it a yellow and not a red card.

There had already been a late tackle on Ibrahimovic by Gareth Barry that went unpunished - maybe the players felt they could chance it after that.

The next significant incident was some rash goalkeeping as Maarten Stekelenburg hurtled out of the penalty area to try and block as Ibrahimovic ran on to Anthony Martial's pass.

The foolish act made up the striker's mind and he lobbed the ball over his former Ajax team-mate.

Even then Ramiro Funes Mori could - maybe - have prevented the goal but he stopped, then ran, but it was too late as the ball struck the crossbar, bounced off a post and spun - just - over the goal-line before the defender did clear.

There were boos, at half-time, for Everton. Ronald Koeman had dropped captain Phil Jagielka and lost Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman to injury while Tom Cleverley had to be taken off because he was struggling badly.

Before that he surrendered the ball to the impressive Henrikh Mkhitaryan and he teed up the overlapping Michael Carrick who crossed the ball low for Ander Herrera's shot to strike the frame of the goal.

"We have to score more goals," Mourinho said. "And Herrera instead of kicking the post. 2-0. Goodbye."

It maybe could also have been goodbye for Ibrahimovic who stood accused of kicking Coleman on the head - the right-back was not the same after the incident - as they tangled on the turf but Oliver did not detect any offence.

Barry did and there were angry words with the United striker. Then on came Fellaini and over went Gueye with Leighton Baines driving the spot-kick low and beyond De Gea.

"Getting draws and deserving victories," Mourinho lamented. "And opponents leaving the stadium super-happy with the result they did not deserve."

It was one last kick out. One last sign of frustration. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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