Manchester United have lost control of the Premier League’s top-four race after they were held to a 1-1 draw with Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
As the two teams went back into their Old Trafford dressing rooms at half-time, things were looking positive for Man Utd. They were 1-0 up thanks to Jadon Sancho’s first home Premier League goal and moving into fourth, two points clear of West Ham.
But just three minutes after the restart, Che Adams equalised for Southampton and they managed to hold on for a point, something Man Utd fans will have grown accustomed to in recent weeks.
You actually only have to go back a few days to find the last time Man Utd lost a lead in such a fashion, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley at Turf Moor. On Tuesday, it was Paul Pogba giving the Red Devils a first-half lead as they looked to take control of the Champions League race.
But just two minutes after the restart, Jay Rodriguez equalised for Burnley after excellent work from Wout Weghorst, and the hosts held on for a point. And how about the FA Cup fourth round?
08/02/2022: Jay Rodriguez scores in the 47th minute to equalise for Burnley against Man Utd
12/02/2022: Che Adams scores in the 48th minute to equalise for Southampton against Man Utd
Ralf Rangnick's side love conceding at the start of the second-half. 😅
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) February 12, 2022
Middlesbrough’s equaliser to Sancho’s opener may have come 20 minutes into the second half rather than two, but it was another lost lead, and one that ultimately ended in defeat for the Red Devils as the Championship side advanced on penalties. So three games, three half-time leads and zero wins to show for it.
It’s not something that is just restricted to the month of February, either. Since Ralf Rangnick took charge of his first Man Utd game, the Red Devils have dropped points from a winning position in three different Premier League matches. The draws with Southampton and Burnley are joined by the 2-2 at Villa Park, in which Aston Villa came from two goals down to seal a point.
No other team has failed to win more Premier League matches after taking the lead than Man Utd during Rangnick’s reign, while only Leicester, Aston Villa, Leeds and Newcastle have lost more points from winning positions in that same time.
Speaking after the game, Rangnick lamented his side’s inability to hold onto the lead, and their loss of shape in the second half.
“Unfortunately, again, it is very similar to the last couple of games,” he told BT Sport.
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“A very good first half hour. We did all the things we intended to do with the counter attacks and deep runs, it’s the way we created and prepared a great goal. But we stopped doing that, and in the second half we lost a bit of shape.
“We struggled to defend them in transition. We had enough chances in the last 20 minutes to score again, the Expected Goals ratio was clearly in our favour (2.56 to 0.74), but in the end we didn’t get the result we wanted to.
“On the one hand, we have to respect that Southampton played well, they are not easy to play against. But we lost composure, and took the wrong decisions, sometimes under pressure, sometimes not. This is where we have to get better. We told them to be aggressive and stay compact, not give them any space, this is exactly what we told them, but it is a different thing to play like that on the pitch.”
Losing a lead wasn’t the only bad habit on display at Old Trafford, and we’re not talking about the Ed Sheeran kind. For former Man Utd midfielder Paul Scholes, there’s a problem with some of the players and their position on the pitch. Or lack thereof, as is the case with Bruno Fernandes.
Manchester United have dropped four points in each of their last two Premier League games.
Just can't hold on to a lead. 😩 pic.twitter.com/Qd9wdDp6oY
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 12, 2022
“I think Fernandes could be a little bit of a problem. As much as he’s such a talented lad, when he first came he scored so many great goals, so many assists. But he’s all over the football pitch,” Scholes said.
“A coach would tell you better that from a defensive point of view, how can you set up in a shape when you’ve no idea where the start of it [is]? The start of it’s Cristiano (Ronaldo) and then it’s Fernandes.
“How can you set traps for teams when you don’t know where some of your players are going to be? Pogba tends to wander about, you see Fernandes sometimes he’s left-back, he’s right-back, at the end of the game he’s playing behind (Diogo) Dalot for five minutes.
“They’re either not taking the instructions on, or they don’t want to.”
Scholes was also scathing in his review of the way things are going at Man Utd in general, highlighting the board’s decision to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Rangnick, and pointing out the differences in how the Red Devils and Southampton played.
He added: “It’s been a bad six or seven months, the season’s not been good enough. The sack for Ole was coming, we all knew that, we all felt that but where was the plan? You think there has to be a plan, they must be bringing in an elite top coach into the football club to revive the season.
“Man Utd, they should have the best of everything. And to not have a plan and bring, what is technically, a sporting director. I think he’s coached a team two years out of the last 10 years.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like the man, I think he comes across really well. His team, it just looks like he lacks experience in the last five or six years. His team, they’re a team of individuals. You look at the difference today between Man Utd’s team and Southampton.
“Southampton were brilliant today. I thought the coaching, the methods, the patterns of play, the two centre forwards, the midfield players were fantastic. And you look at United and they’re a little bit all over the place.
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“One time (Scott) McTominay is left on his own in midfield, then it’s Pogba left on his own in midfield. Where Bruno Fernandes is playing, I don’t know, he’s absolutely all over the pitch. The two wide players for me just don’t work anywhere near hard enough.
“One team have got a proper coach, the other team has a sporting director, which can’t be right for Manchester United.”
Man Utd don’t have too long to turn things around. They are back in Premier League action on Tuesday, hosting Brighton at Old Trafford — their final game in hand on the teams above them.