Manchester United manager David Moyes described his team’s defending as “diabolical” after they conceded a dramatic injury-time equaliser to bottom-of-the-table Fulham in yet another chapter of misery for the club’s new manager.
Having fallen behind to Steve Sidwell’s first-half goal for Fulham, United took the lead within less than two minutes with goals from Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick. Then, in the seventh of 13 home league games at Old Trafford this season that they have failed to win, Darren Bent capitalised on mistakes by Carrick and Nemanja Vidic to score an equaliser.
At this stage last season, after 25 games, United were top of the table with 62 points, 21 more than they currently have. Asked afterwards whether he ever thought his first season at United would have gone so badly, Moyes said, “probably not”
The United manager said: “Even when it was 2-1 and they put five minutes up [time added on], Fulham never came up the pitch, they left us with the ball so it was nearly a case of just playing out time and we gave away a diabolical second goal. If we had one failing it was that we should have gone on to win 3-1. We had a couple of chances to make it 3-1 and we didn’t make those moments count and that was probably the biggest thing.”
In chasing Fulham’s early lead, United crossed the ball a record 81 times – the most by a Premier League team since 2006 – as they tried to break down a Fulham team that did not include Scott Parker, Brede Hangeland, Bent or Damien Duff in the starting XI. Moyes agreed that his players’ concentration had slipped badly.
“You could use maybe mental softness that we didn’t see the job out and get the job done,” he said, “I would agree with that. The players are hurting. I can see every day that they’re hurting because the results aren’t going the way they want. They’re really good professionals in the way they go about their work and what I see in training makes me feel they’ll get results.
“I don’t know if we could have done an awful lot more, maybe defended a bit better a couple of times and taken a few more of the chances we made but we completely dominated the game and should have won the game comfortably.
“That was it. I thought we did create chances but we didn’t convert when we did get some half chances and we ended up having to chase. We started the game really well, did a lot of good things and found ourselves a goal down which shouldn’t have been the case. Nevertheless there was only one winner in the game and that was Manchester United.”
Moyes denied that his team had failed to vary their attack beyond crossing the ball. “It was never one way. If you’re just going to look at the stats and think about the crosses you need to think about the number of passes and I don’t think we just went out and crossed the ball. Some people might say that one of the things that Manchester United do is play with width and cross the ball, that’s in the genes here.
Rene Meulensteen, the Fulham manager, said the late equaliser had “felt like a win” for his players. He said: “I do think that a few teams have come here with a different sort of approach because certain teams have come here and done well and got something. West Brom, Southampton, Swansea, Newcastle, Everton. Everton at times had to defend and defend but they got the goal and held on to it. So yes I do think there’s a little bit of that.”
He added: “If you’re well organised and the goalkeeper is in good positions to come and collect the ball at times, yeah, it can be easy [to defend against crosses]. You need a little bit of creativity and a bit of variety at times to open [teams] up. The first goal they scored was from a ball that was in a second phase, fell and was a sort of pass across the goal that got tapped in. And the second came from a clearance then a shot and a deflection.”