Manchester United were so famous for scoring late goals to save a match or win a game that it was called Fergie Time. From Steve Bruce scoring the winner against Sheffield Wednesday, a goal that helped United win the innaugral Premier League in 1992/93 to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer winner in the Champions League final in 1999, scoring late has been part of United’s DNA,
But not anymore. Now their record in the last few moments is the worst of any top-flight side, even if Marcus Rashford did score a stoppage-time winner away at Hull in August.
No other team has surrendered more points in the final 10 minutes of matches this season than Manchester United and the ramifications of their consistent capitulations are such that United would be just three points off the top if matches finished after 80 minutes.
Of their rivals towards the top, none of Arsenal, Tottenham or Chelsea have dropped a single point. Manchester City two, Liverpool one – that coming at Bournemouth hours before Everton shocked Mourinho late on.
Yet while Everton’s rally did surprise, United’s incompetence in holding onto a lead did not. They are a team lacking concentration and the nous to see fixtures through.
Their mental fragility, borne out of three fairly disastrous years during which confidence has been shaken, is proving exceptionally costly.
United retreat to try and keep what they have, unsure of how best to see games out. There is certainly not that insistence on scoring more goals as games tick into the last 20 minutes.
On Sunday there was the highly questionable substitution of Marouane Fellani, whose mistake ultimately cost Mourinho, but also the pattern of their meek, wilting shape as full-time draws nearer. Misery on Merseyside was not alone by any stretch.
Arsenal, Stoke and Everton were all games they were in control of but failed to cling on and while missed chances can be pinpointed earlier in each of those, the common denominator is defending.
Everton, too, saw Mourinho’s acumen questioned after bringing on Fellaini with five minutes to play. The idea was to own an extra body in central midfield, someone whose height would offer help when defending set pieces.
In truth, the switch only served to push United a further 10 yards back. Panic set in, Everton weaved their way into the penalty box and Fellaini’s rush of blood in hauling down Idrissa Gueye gave the hosts a point.
Mourinho fiercely defended himself for the Belgian’s introduction.
‘Everton is not a passing team any more like they were in the past,’ he said. ‘Everton is a team that plays direct: goalkeeper direct, Ashley Williams direct, Ramiro Funes Mori direct. Everything direct.
‘When you have on the bench a player with two metres [in height] you play the player in front of the defensive line to help the team to win the match.’
The draw against Stoke came via an uncharacteristic David De Gea error but also was a by-product of missed chances and an afternoon to remember for Lee Grant.
Luck cannot be held up as the problem but Mourinho continued along those lines at Goodison Park.
‘We are not getting the results we deserve,’ he added. ‘We are getting draws but deserving victory.
‘Opposition are leaving the stadium super happy with points they don’t deserve and we are leaving the stadium with a feeling we deserved more.