Manchester United's Paul Pogba is tracked by the Anderlecht defence.
Manchester United's Paul Pogba is tracked by the Anderlecht defence. JULIEN WARNAND

Man Utd left to rue missed opportunities

JOSE Mourinho is often one to play the deflection game, but it's even hard to disagree with him when he says Manchester United lacks a killer instinct.

It was a sentiment echoed by frustrated veteran Michael Carrick after the 1-1 Europa League draw in Anderlecht, and it is the tale of their underwhelming season.

Simply, excluding Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Red Devils have been largely toothless.

That came to a head in Belgium, where the Premier League behemoth should have had the tie wrapped up well before the brilliant 86th minute header left proceedings level heading back to Old Trafford. Paul Pogba's glaring 82nd-minute miss was the most obvious, but the midfielder had had a good outing otherwise, vying alongside highly rated midfielder Youri Tielemans, 19.

On this occasion, United was more guilty of being complacent than anything.

"If I was a Manchester United defender I'd be very upset with the attacking players because they have to kill the game and they didn't," Mourinho fumed.

"Rashford, Lingard, Ibrahimovic, Martial were very similar. You put together the performance of three or four of our attacking players and you don't squeeze much juice out of it.

"The result should be much better and we can only blame ourselves because we had any easy game to play in the second-half and we didn't play with instinct in the attack.

"We lost the ball easily too many times, we stopped our counter-attacks because of sloppy touches, sloppy decisions, and then we gave them the opportunity to have some counter-attacks.

"This is what has happened to us all season. We have control, we have chances, but we don't score.

"What can I do about that? Good question, difficult answer."

He added: "It was a strong performance by the team from a defensive point of view. Lingard, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, they did defensively what we asked them to do, to compact the team, to control direct opponents, to cover some spaces, we were very solid defensively and that is not just about the defenders.

"But when the team is broken and we go to counter attack we cannot lose so many balls. It's not just about the chances we missed because we did not miss so many chances, it's about half chances. The chances when the time and space is there but then sometimes the decision is wrong.

"Sometimes you have to play two touches, but you play one touch and lose the ball, other times you keep the ball, take one more touch and lose it. The decisions were wrong and probably the only time where everything was correct - the timing, the touches, the decisions - was Paul's shot, which was a good save by the keeper. But obviously this is what's happened to us all season, we have control, we have chances but we don't score."

Carrick was particularly blunt as well: "We have to kill teams off when we're in control and make the games easy for ourselves.

"We should have won that game comfortably but they had a late chance and they scored. We're bitterly disappointed.

"We need to be more ruthless. It was sloppy and we lost possession. 1-0 is one of those scorelines which is always dangerous and it proved to be.

"When we come away from the game we'll think that a 1-1 draw away in Europe is not the end of the world, but we're better than that."

News Corp Australia

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