Jose Mourinho cursed Manchester United’s attack once again after their lack of killer instinct allowed Anderlecht to snatch a late Europa League draw.
Like so many times during the Portuguese’s first season at the Old Trafford helm, comfort made way for frustration as Thursday’s quarter-final first leg came to a close.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan put United on course for a deserved victory at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, yet an inability to turn dominance into goals saw them caught cold by Leander Dendoncker’s late header.
While United’s away goal in the 1-1 draw could prove decisive, a 14th draw of the campaign in all competitions clearly irked Mourinho.
“The result is positive,” the United boss told the post-match press conference. “To play at home with an advantage, to start the game with an advantage, is a good result in any case.
“But I think the result should be much better and we can only blame ourselves because we had an easy game to play in the second half and we didn’t play in attack with that instinct.
“We lost the ball easily too many times, we stopped our counter-attacks because of sloppy touches, sloppy decisions.
“And then we gave them the opportunity to have some counter-attacks that luckily our defenders were very much in the game and they resolved all these problems.
“But if I was a Manchester United defender I would be very upset with the attacking players because they have to kill the game and they didn’t.”
Asked what he can do about United’s poor finishing, Mourinho retorted: “Good question, difficult answer.”
The need to “kill matches” is clear if United are to kick on and veteran midfielder Michael Carrick echoed his manager’s sentiments.
“It was frustrating but we were so in control in the first half and we got sloppy,” he told BT Sport.
“We’ve got to kill teams off and we were in control of the game but we didn’t do that.
“It was frustrating but we didn’t do that and we should have won that game comfortably.
“I’m completely disappointed really. We need to be more ruthless and kill things off, it’s as simple as that. It’s too comfortable.
“It was almost too easy at times and we got sloppy and lost possession. It’s one of those scorelines where it’s dangerous.”
It was a damning assessment from the long-serving midfielder, albeit Carrick knows the result is “not the end of the world” given Mkhitaryan’s away goal.
Mourinho offered a similarly philosophical view on the match in Brussels, even if his demeanour in the press conference made his annoyance clear.
“It was a strong performance by the team from a defensive point of view,” the United boss said.
“(Jesse) Lingard, Mkhitaryan, (Marcus) Rashford, they did defensively what we asked them to do, to compact the team, to control direct opponents, to cover some spaces.
“We were very solid defensively and that is not just about the defenders but when the team is broken and we go to counter-attack we cannot lose so many balls.
“It’s not just about the chances we missed because we did not miss so many chances, it’s about half-chances – the chances when the time and space is there but then the decision is wrong.”
Anderlecht counterpart Rene Weiler was understandably upbeat by contrast, given the way the club’s first European quarter-final in 20 years ended.
“It’s a good result, that’s clear,” he said. “We played against a very good team in Manchester United.
“We had a lot of difficulties in the first half, we did not create a lot of chances, the opponent was very strong.
“In the second half, we showed a lot of courage. I am proud that how the team played tonight.”