(Reuters) - - Manchester United came from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw at Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday as Jose Mourinho’s side fell 16 points behind leaders Manchester City after 14 games.
United wasted a glorious early opening and were punished for their profligacy when Stuart Armstrong scored his third goal in a week to put Southampton ahead in the 13th minute, capitalising on suspect defending from the visitors.
A makeshift United defence, including young midfielder Scott McTominay, continued to look vulnerable and soon enough it was two, with Cedric Soares curling a sublime free kick into the net with 20 minutes on the clock.
No Premier League side has dropped more points from winning positions than Southampton this season, though, and United were back in it in the 33rd minute through Romelu Lukaku, who ended a run of 12 games without a goal for United in all competitions.
Six minutes later and Southampton were breached once again as Ander Herrera drew United level with a fine finish.
David de Gea was forced into a smart late save to preserve a point for United, who are now six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea having played a game more, while Southampton stayed in the bottom three and remained winless at home.
Mourinho made five changes to the side that beat Young Boys in the Champions League, with injuries forcing the Portuguese to deploy three central defenders.
“Doesn’t matter the system we play,” Mourinho said. “(Not winning) has to do with the characteristics of the players.
“With all the respect, we don’t have many mad dogs that bite the ball and press all the time we don’t have many people with that spirit.”
Mourinho’s side did almost take an early lead through Lukaku, but looked ragged down the other end and, after missing several chances to clear their lines, Southampton’s Michael Obafemi laid the ball off for Armstrong to break the deadlock.
Before United could even digest that strike they fell further behind when Soares skilfully curled his free kick into the top corner of the net.
United were struggling to string passes together and they faced the prospect of a third consecutive league game without a win, but Lukaku gave them hope with his first goal for the club in 981 minutes in all competitions.
The equaliser was all about the tenacity and direct running of Marcus Rashford, who brilliantly supplied Herrera for his well-taken first goal of the season.
After turning the match on its head, United teams of old would have found a winning goal, but Mourinho’s men seemed to lack urgency and mustered just one shot on target after halftime.
“Second half there was not a lot of momentum generated by United, that’s credit to us,” Southampton manager Mark Hughes said. “Overall I am really pleased.”
Southampton were denied a late winner as Nathan Redmond brought the best of out De Gea, leaving United sitting seventh in the table and with a negative goal difference.
Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond