Jose Mourinho refused to discuss rumours of a bid for Kalidou Koulibaly after using two midfielders in defence in Manchester United’s draw with Southampton.
The Red Devils started with a back three of Scott McTominay, Phil Jones and Nemanja Matic at St Mary’s Stadium, with injuries ruling out Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo not fully fit.
They found themselves 2-0 down after 20 minutes thanks to goals from Stuart Armstrong and Cedric Soares and, although Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera ensured a 2-2 draw, the result means United could be nine points off the top four if Chelsea beat Fulham and Tottenham draw with Arsenal on Sunday.
Reports this week have suggested United have had a bid of £91million for Koulibaly rejected by Napoli as they look to sure up their defensive options in the January transfer window, but Mourinho would not be drawn on the speculation.
“I cannot answer your question,” he told a news conference. “Koulibaly is a Napoli player and I don’t speak about players from another club.”
Mourinho accepted the result was two points dropped, despite the first-half comeback, saying: “The result is not good, so I have to say we dropped two points. If you’re losing 4-0 and you get 4-4, I would say maybe the same.
“The comeback is good. You had the game lost, and you got the point. Normally you would say it’s a positive point.”
981 – Romelu Lukaku’s strike vs Southampton has ended a run of 12 games and 981 minutes without a goal for Manchester United in all competitions since netting against Watford in September. Relief. pic.twitter.com/xpoVjUoa1X
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 1, 2018
Lukaku ended a wait of 981 minutes in all competitions for a goal, but Mourinho was terse when it was put to him the striker still struggled with his control and link-up play.
“So write that. Don’t ask me,” he said. “Yes, the goal will give him confidence. But I’m super happy with [Marcus] Rashford’s performance.”
Mourinho added that Rashford, who was replaced in the second half despite assisting both his side’s goals, had asked to come off due to injury.
“[It was] fatigue, but he was injured, he was asking to come off,” he said. “Some players with that kind of injury, they don’t play for two weeks, but Marcus I’m sure will be fine for the next one [against Arsenal on Wednesday].
“One fall here, one fall there, fatigue, lots of movement, [after] 75 minutes he was done.”
Southampton boss Mark Hughes was happy with his side’s performance but dismissed fears that the pressure on his position will only increase after a 10th league game in a row without a win.
“I can’t be disappointed with the performance. We created more chances, had more efforts on goal. I thought we defended much better in the manner that we needed to in the second half,” he said.
“I never felt like we were under any constant or sustained pressure from United. Overall, disappointed, two-nil up, [but] I can’t be disappointed with the performance. The guys gave me everything.
“People keep talking about this pressure on me. Pressure comes when you don’t get the result. There’s a lot of clubs down below, around us that aren’t doing well. We all feel we’re playing better than we did last year.
“At the moment, they can raise the pressure question on my position, I understand it, but I think we’re better than where we actually are and we should be higher in the league.
“I’ll deal with it, it’s no problem. You can see by the manner of performances that everyone is fully engaged, everyone is pushing where this club needs to be.”
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