It seemingly needs a sleepy start to a game to jolt Manchester United’s players into action these days.
Their latest stirring comeback came at Southampton on Saturday.
Trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes against a team without a win in three months, United recovered to draw 2-2 for a result that leaves Jose Mourinho’s side 16 points off the lead in the English Premier League after just 14 games.
That lead was extended by Manchester City, which beat Bournemouth 3-1 to go five points clear of second-placed Liverpool.
Mourinho joked recently that United’s slow starts are causing his hair to turn white. There was the 3-2 win over Newcastle in early October from 2-0 down after 10 minutes, which might have saved Mourinho’s job; the 2-1 win at Bournemouth in early November after going behind after 11 minutes; the comebacks, too, against Chelsea and also Juventus in the Champions League.
On Saturday, perhaps it was no surprise United struggled early on with Mourinho reacting to a crisis at center back by fielding a back three featuring center midfielders Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay.
Stuart Armstrong drove home an angled finish for Southampton’s opening goal in the 13th, and Cedric Soares curled a free kick into the top corner for 2-0.
That sparked what is fast becoming a trademark recovery from United.
Romelu Lukaku ran onto a pass from Marcus Rashford to shoot high into the net in the 33rd for his first goal for United since Sept. 15. More impressive work from Rashford led to the second goal, the striker crossing for Ander Herrera to flick in deftly at the near post.
In the race for a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League, which might be a minimum requirement for Mourinho to stay in his job, United is six points behind fourth-place Chelsea, whose game in hand is against Fulham on Sunday.
It was no surprise to see Raheem Sterling on the scoresheet for Man City. After all, Bournemouth just can’t keep him down.
The winger became the first player to score in his first six Premier League appearances against a single opponent when he put City 2-1 up from close range at Etihad Stadium. Among the goals in that streak was a winner seven minutes into injury time at Bournemouth in the third game of the last season.
Ilkay Gundogan made sure of maximum points in the 79th for a City side which didn’t find its groove until the final stages, with manager Pep Guardiola’s five changes seeing the team struggle for fluency early on.
Bernardo Silva’s 16th-minute goal was City’s only shot on target in the first half and was canceled out by Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson on the stroke of halftime.
Guardiola said top scorer Sergio Aguero was missing because of muscle fatigue and might be ruled out of City’s trip to Watford on Tuesday, too.
City has won 12 of its 14 league games.
Leicester playmaker James Maddison was desperate to make amends for his embarrassing red card for diving last weekend. With one of the best goals of the season in the Premier League, he did exactly that against Watford.
Maddison brought down a long ball forward, juggled the ball past his marker, and sent a low volley into the bottom corner from just inside the area for Leicester’s second goal in a 2-0 win at King Power Stadium.
“I made a mistake last week and I was the first one to hold my hands ups,” said Maddison, who apologized for his sending-off in a message on social media. “I needed to make an impact.”
Jamie Vardy’s 12th-minute penalty, after the striker himself was brought down, gave Leicester the lead. The win lifted the team into seventh above Watford, for which Etienne Capoue was red-carded in the 90th.
Crystal Palace ended an eight-game winless run in beating third-to-last Burnley 2-0 to move three points clear of the relegation zone.
Newcastle’s three-match winning run was halted by a 3-0 home loss to West Ham, with Mexico striker Javier Hernandez scoring twice and Felipe Anderson adding a third in jury time.
Brighton responded to conceding a goal after 55 seconds – the earliest strike in the Premier League this season – to win at 10-man Huddersfield 2-1, with Romania striker Florin Andone grabbing the winner with his first goal in English soccer.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80