MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho criticised Manchester United’s “childish” errors as his team fell further behind leaders Manchester City after conceding a 94th-minute equaliser from Harry Maguire at Leicester.
The Portuguese felt his side missed “joke chances” as they fell 13 points behind City – the biggest points gap between first and second place at Christmas in English top-flight history.
It was the second time in a week that United have conceded a goal in injury time, losing 2-1 to Championship side Bristol City in the EFL Cup quarter-finals.
United had looked set to take all three points after Juan Mata’s double had seen them recover from Jamie Vardy’s opener, while Foxes substitute Daniel Amartey was sent off for the home side 16 minutes and nine seconds after coming on, following two bookings in four minutes.
Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard were particularly guilty of missing golden opportunities in the second half to put the game beyond Leicester.
Maguire caught the United defence out as they failed to deal with Marc Albrighton’s deep cross into the box, the England defender running past the injured Chris Smalling to side-foot the ball past David de Gea from close range.
“We were punished by our mistakes,” Mourinho told. “Childish loss of possession, so easy. Childish in their box and childish in our box.
“Half an hour after our second it is a game to finish four, five, six-one. We didn’t win because we missed incredible chances, joke chances.”
This result was a huge blow to any hope United had of catching City, who had earlier beaten Bournemouth 4-0.
And former England striker Alan Shearer believes the title race is “as good as over”.
Speaking on Match of the Day he said: “Manchester City have lost twice in 2017 in the Premier League, they will not lose five games in the second half of the season.”
Mourinho made eight changes from the side that lost to Bristol City, with Paul Pogba returning from suspension to captain the team, while Victor Lindelof, making his fifth Premier League start, went to right-back in place of the injured Antonio Valencia.
The Swede and centre-back Phil Jones were badly exposed by Leicester’s counter-attack for the Foxes’ opener.
Wilfred Ndidi sprayed a 60-yard pass to Riyad Mahrez, who only had Smalling and De Gea for company.
The Algerian held up the ball before sliding a clever pass to the arriving Vardy, who placed a low finish into the bottom corner for his 50th Premier League goal.
Mata equalised on 40 minutes with a precise finish, rolling the ball into the far corner from the middle of the box.
Lindelof blocked Christian Fuchs’ goalbound effort after the break, while Martial missed a one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel, blasting over from 12 yards.
Spanish midfielder Mata got his second on the hour mark, beating Schmeichel with curling a free-kick after Martial had been fouled on the edge of the box.
United dominated in the second half and the result should never have been in question with 19 attempts on goal in the match.
Lingard should have made it three when he hit the post after rounding Schmeichel, while the Dane also got his fingertips to the ball to stop substitute Marcus Rashford when he was through on goal.
United failed to capitalise on Amartey’s 73rd-minute sending off and Mourinho looked to shore up the lead instead of extending it, bringing on Ander Herrera for Lingard with 15 minutes left in the match.
“I don’t get United,” said ex-England winger Chris Waddle. “They’ve had so many chances to really put this game beyond Leicester but they’ve messed about and missed chances.”
Leicester had also suffered EFL Cup defeat in midweek, losing on penalties to Manchester City.
Claude Puel made seven changes, with Mahrez and Vardy restored to the starting line-up.
The pair were crucial to the Foxes’ gameplan and, after soaking up United’s pressure, they counter-attacked at will.
After United took the lead they were fortunate not to fall further behind, but showed character to come back and equalise.
“It was difficult but with our positive attitude we stayed in the game and believed in ourselves,” Puel told Match of the Day.
“It’s a good result for all of us because the belief keeps going. It’s fantastic for the future.
“Now we know if that situation happens again we can score with 10 men against 11, so that’s a good feeling for the future.”
Their revival under Puel leaves them in eighth at Christmas, but with only two defeats in his 10 league games in charge.