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Manchester United are no longer the comeback kings

ANALYST
Feature
864   //    19 Feb 2018, 01:36 IST

Jo
Jose Mourinho's side have struggled to mount comebacks from losing positions

For those who have followed Manchester United in the 1990s and 2000s - the era where United were dominant under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson - there always seemed a certain inevitability in the closing stages that they would score.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United made a habit of grabbing a last-ditched winner or equalizer, often in stoppage time, epitomized by their double strike in added time in the 1999 Champions League final.

This habit has fallen by the wayside as this season, Manchester United have often struggled to come back when they concede first. This problem was highlighted in their game against Tottenham at Wembley where they produced a very lacklustre response after they went two goals behind.

Compare Manchester United's bland response to that of Spurs. After conceding twice early in Turin against Juventus, Tottenham took charge of that game and literally dominated the Italian Champions in their backyard.

Against Newcastle, while United did provide one late scare as Manchester United captain Michael Carrick was denied at point-blank range in injury time, you just got the feeling it was not Manchester United's day as they missed a number of chances.

This has become a recurring phenomenon in the last 18 months or so as the days of Fergie time have become a thing of the past. Indeed, United have only come back from a goal behind to win a game on four occasions under Mourinho.

United came back 12 times from a losing position to win a game during Sir Alex's final season in charge
United came back 12 times from a losing position to win during Sir Alex Ferguson's final season in charge

Their oppositions include Middlesbrough, Blackburn, CSKA Moscow and, funnily, Newcastle. That is four comebacks in 104 games in a period where United have lost 17 matches.

In contrast, in Sir Alex Ferguson's final season in charge, Manchester United had come back from a losing position to win a game a staggering 12 times but those dramatic comebacks that are associated with United, are a rarity these days.

To be fair to Jose Mourinho' side, there have been plenty of late goals - 18 after the 80th-minute mark this season - and a number of game-changing substitutes have earned Manchester United precious points.

Anthony Martial's winner against Tottenham, Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini's double act versus Leicester, and Jesse Lingard's double against Burnley are just a few examples

Also, Jose Mourinho had planned a similar trick against Newcastle before Matt Ritchie's winner after the hour mark at St James' stadium. As Chris Smalling took a tumble, both Juan Mata and Michael Carrick were readied as substitutes to find a winner rather than an equalizer.

But Mourinho's side could not find the breakthrough in a scenario he wanted when things were going well back in August.

Jose Mourinho has already highlighted the importance of character and emotional reaction while mounting a comeback. "I want to see the team losing and see the way we emotionally react to it because it's another stage to be losing and to try to change the result," he said after the 4-0 win against Swansea at the beginning of the season.

He added: "Because at this moment everything is going in our favour but you know it's not always motorway. You always find difficult roads and roadworks and you have to be ready."

Manchester United picked Swansea City apart at Liberty Stadium, in their first away league game of the season, but similar sides have proved trickier with those kinds of tactics.

Huddersfield, Bristol City, and Newcastle are just three teams who have got the better of United by fighting for everything in between and defending with their lives. Bristol City has knocked Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup in the stoppage when it seemed otherwise.

To challenge their so-called noisy neighbours who are putting forward an incredible charge to be the Premier League champions, Manchester United need to find a solution for their sluggishness while trailing rather sooner than later.

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