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MANCHESTER, England – There used to be no team better than Manchester United at scoring much-needed late goals.
Under Jose Mourinho, the opposite is happening.
In the last two months, United has drawn five of its seven games in the Premier League. Three of those draws — against Stoke, Arsenal and most recently Everton on Sunday — have come after conceding equalizers in the 82nd minute or later.
"This is what we are doing for a long time — playing well, better than opponents," Mourinho said in comments that could easily be on a loop in post-match news conferences. "Getting draws but deserving victories."
The dropped points have left United in sixth place in the standings after 14 games, 13 points behind first-place Chelsea and more crucially nine points off the Champions League qualification positions. No team has dropped more points from conceding goals in the last 10 minutes of matches this season than United, which also lost 3-1 at Watford in September after letting in goals in the 83rd minute and in injury time.
Mourinho has called United the "most unlucky team in the Premier League." It's certainly the case that United has failed to win games it has dominated, none more so than the 0-0 home draw against Burnley when Mourinho's side had 37 attempts on goal.
Instead of "unlucky," Mourinho might chose to use the words "least clinical." And the Portuguese coach might also need to look at his own role in this.
Against Arsenal on Nov. 19, United was winning 1-0 and in control of the match when Mourinho decided to replace playmaker Juan Mata, who had scored the goal, with defensive midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin in the 85th minute. Momentum quickly shifted and substitute Olivier Giroud powered in a late header to earn Arsenal a 1-1 draw that even its coach, Arsene Wenger, acknowledged was undeserved.
That was Arsenal's only attempt on target all match.
On Sunday against Everton, United again was leading 1-0 after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 42nd-minute goal when Mourinho made another defensive substitution in the 85th, bringing on Marouane Fellaini for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The aim, according to Mourinho, was for Fellaini to bring protection in front of the defense with his height and strength as Everton went direct in its search for an equalizer.
But Fellaini's first meaningful contribution to the match was to foul Idrissa Gueye with a clumsy challenge in the area. Leighton Baines then equalized from the penalty spot.
Mourinho was irritable with the media afterward, angry at journalists questioning his decision to bring on Fellaini and asking why United continues to throw away points from dominant positions.
"It is a problem that our position in the table is not a reflection of our performances," he said.
Mourinho said pundits have double standards when criticizing his team, based on his past reputation of eking out victories.
"When my team are playing pragmatic football and winning matches and winning titles, you say it is not right and nice," Mourinho said. "When my teams play very, very well, there is a huge change in relation. Now you say what matters, no matter, is to get result."
United didn't play "very, very well" against Everton but was still on course for a victory, only a third in the league since Aug. 27.
Once again, the 20-time champions, who once pulled wins out of nowhere, contrived to do the opposite.