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30 Dec 2017

Jose Mourinho's men held to third successive draw - 5 talking points [See All

Manchester United slumped to a third straight draw in the Premier League as Jose Mourinho's side lost first-choice striker Romelu Lukaku to injury.

United were unable to find a way past Southampton and will go into 2018 in third place in the table, behind runaway leaders Manchester City and Chelsea, who went above them into second spot.

Lukaku went off injured in the 14 minute after a nasty clash of heads with Southampton's Wesley Hoedt, the United striker now not available to return to face former club Everton on New Year's Day.

United missed another chance to move closer to City, who can extend their lead over their local rivals to 17 points with a win at Crystal Palace at lunchtime tomorrow.

Here are five things we learned from another frustrating evening for United fans at Old Trafford:

1. Lukaku gets the rest he needs after nasty clash of heads
Romelu Lukaku had played every minute of every Premier League game this season, with Jose Mourinho admitting he needed a rest but was unable to afford him one. But a clash of heads with Wesleu Hoedt after seven minutes ensured Lukaku would play no further part in the game, with the striker now getting the rest Mourinho said he required, albeit in unfortunate circumstances. No chances can be taken with head injuries and it is unlikely Lukaku will be passed fit to return to face former club Everton on New Year's Day, with just 48 hours between the fixtures.

2. Mkhitaryan lacking form and sharpness
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was handed his first Premier League start since November 5, having been exiled by Mourinho for several weeks for “disappearing” in games according to the United boss. Rather than in the No.10 role which he has been accustomed to playing, Mkhitaryan was deployed out on the left, but struggled. When Marcus Rashford broke at speed on the counter-attack after 20 minutes and surged into the area along with Jesse Lingard, all Mkhitaryan had to do was dispatch the ball into the danger area, but succeeded in over-hitting his delivery to waste the opening. He was subbed with 20 minutes left, his withdrawal and the introduction of Anthony Martial cheered by United fans.

3. United denied a clear penalty in first-half
Referee Carig Pawson will surely wince when he watches footage of United's penalty claim just after the half-hour mark, when Saints skiper Maya Yoshida, with his arm raised high, clearly handles the ball as Lingard tries to bring it under control. Mourinho, with both arms outstretched in appealing for the decision, was aghast at Pawson's failure to award United a spot-kick, with replays of the incident showing the official got it wrong.

4. Young facing ban for off-the-ball incident
Ashley Young is facing a three-match suspension for violent conduct after referee Carig Pawson failed to spot the United defender elbowing Dusan Tadic in the stomach in an off-the-ball incident in the second-half. TV cameras picked up the incident and Young is likely to befall the same fate as Burnley's James Tarkowski, who has just completed a three-match ban for a similar incident involving Brighton's Glenn Murray. With Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia currently sidelined through injury, Mourinho can ill afford to be without defenders, but it seems inconceivable Young will not be charged by the FA.

5. Long's goal drought goes on
Shane Long had a glorious chance to end his 28-game goal drought for Southampton, which stretched back to last February, five minutes after the restart. Saints caught United on the counter-attack, with Long getting across and in front of Phil Jones to meet Dusan Tadic's delivery and send a first-time effort goalwards, only to see David De Gea do what he has done so many times before and block the attempt with his outstretched right leg, sending the ball spinning over the bar. A strike with more confidence would surely have stuck the ball in the net.

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