LONDON • Jose Mourinho suggested after Manchester United's third Premier League match without a victory that his team did not have enough "mad dogs" on the field in their 2-2 draw at Southampton on Saturday.
But, to neutral observers, it seemed that it was not rabid canines that were missing from United, but rather the intensity and desire against a side who have yet to win a home match this season.
The Saints had netted only four times at St Mary's this term, with only one victory at home this calendar year, which came in April.
But they had two more goals through Stuart Armstrong and Cedric Soares after only 19 minutes against a United side, who seemed to be going through the motions.
Marcus Rashford, however, dragged United back into the game with a pair of assists for Romelu Lukaku - his first goal since Sept 15 - and Ander Herrera.
That should have been their cue to go on and win a match that could have nearly slipped away, but they failed to resume control of the match in the second half, with David de Gea the busier of the two goalkeepers.
And Mourinho later bemoaned the lack of fighters in his side. "It's a football expression," the Portuguese said of his remark.
"I love dogs and they are better than many men. People who are aggressive on the ball, fight hard to recover the ball.
"Marcus Rashford was a mad dog until he got tired. In that first period, Rashford was fresh, not hurt by hard tackles... One foul here, one foul there, 75 minutes and he was done."
With Chris Smalling nursing a groin injury to add to the absence of Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay lined up alongside Phil Jones and Nemanja Matic in an unfamiliar three-man defence that comprised two midfielders.
The Red Devils lacked authority as Michael Obafemi set up Armstrong to score his third Saints goal in two league games and United's makeshift backline appeared vulnerable throughout.
However, Mourinho claimed his hand was forced as he was hamstrung by the lack of fit options.
"In the Premier League, to play with only one central defender is hard, a situation of fragility that we tried to compensate by playing with a back three," he said.
"Scott and Nemanja had the courage to play and Jones was a good reference point for them.
"The result is not good so I have to say we dropped two points. Someone once said that simplicity is genius. I agree totally.
"In some areas of the pitch, simplicity is still genius. We wanted to win but we needed better decisions."