SOUTHAMPTON 2, MANCHESTER UNITED 2
Manchester United’s troubles deepened despite a rousing first half fightback to dig themselves out of a 2-0 deficit within 20 minutes away at Southampton.
Goals by Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera prevented an embarrassing defeat against Mark Hughes’ Saints who were lingering in the bottom three on Saturday but scored two early goals through Stuart Armstrong and Cedric Soares.
United were short of central defenders after injuries decimated the travelling squad that went to St Marys.
Phil Jones was the sole recognised central defender and was flanked by Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic in a three man defence with Jose Mourinho making five changes from the side that laboured to victory over Young Boys on Tuesday.
Alongside McTominay, Mourinho also included Ashley Young, Paul Pogba, Herrera, and Lukaku but kept an unfit Marcos Rojo on the bench.
Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Fred, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial missed out.
Fielding defensive minded midfielders alongside Phil Jones meant that the Reds lacked bite in the centre of the park – something that boss Jose Mourinho pointed out afterwards.
Nathan Redmond dribbled through a static United defence before Michael Obafemi found Armstrong after just 13 minutes and opened the scoring with a fine strike beyond David De Gea.
The Saints nippy strikers were causing immense problems to the makeshift United defence and Marcus Rashford mistimed a challenge on Mario Lemina to concede a free kick which Cedric Soares duly found the top corner with a wonderful free kick from 25 yards out.
With just 20 minutes gone things were looking bleak for United but they quickly turned the corner with Lukaku hammering home his first goal in 13 appearances for the Reds after Rashford fed the ball to him.
Herrera levelled things up 6 minutes later when Rashford cut the ball back from the byline with the Spanish midfielder ghosting into the six yard box to divert it home.
Obafemi could have won a penalty before the break after appearing to go down under a clumsy Jones challenge while Redmond’s dipping shot was tipped away by De Gea after half time.
The Reds could not find a winner against the struggling Saints and dropped two more points to slip even further behind in an increasingly hard to catch title chase.
With 14 games gone United are now 16 points behind league leaders Manchester City, six points behind Chelsea in fourth, and five points behind fifth placed Arsenal who are the next visitors to Old Trafford on Wednesday.