Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera

WELL, at least this probably kept one United legend in a job.

But the fact that Mark Hughes, who made 473 appearances during a glittering playing career at Old Trafford, could be safe for now is unlikely to be of consolation to frustrated United fans.

Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraReuters11 Southampton broke the deadlock in the 13th minute through Stuart Armstrong
Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraReuters11 Saints doubled their lead when Cedric Soares' free-kick found the top left corner

It certainly will not be for Jose Mourinho, who must feel like it is Groundhog Day.

He claimed in the build-up to be confused by his side’s lack of “intensity, aggression and emotion” at the start of many matches this season.

Woeful defeats at Brighton and West Ham – as well as that lucky escape against Newcastle – told as much.

The Portuguese must be even more perplexed now as despite having pointed out the problem, his side started sleepier than ever here.

Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraPA:Press Association11 Romelu Lukaku ended his goal drought after firing past Alex McCarthy
Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraGetty Images – Getty11 Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera put the Red Devils back on level terms with a smart backheel finish

Once again they found themselves 2-0 down early doors – and this time after just 20 minutes.

Stuart Armstrong belted in an opener before wing-back did his best Matt Le Tissier impression to curl in a wonder free-kick.

Were it not for the never-say-die spirit of Marcus Rashford, who brilliantly set up goals for Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera before the break, it would have been another shock loss.

And now Mourinho must swallow the fact that his side are SIXTEEN points behind rivals Manchester City – and SIX off the top four.

That intensity, aggression and emotion Mourinho wanted were on display in the opening stages – but by Saints.

It was hard to believe teenagers Michael Obafemi and Yan Valery were making their first league starts.

They looked as hungry as a young Wayne Rooney as they hared around the pitch and threw themselves into challenges.

While Nathan Redmond, deployed off 18-year-old striker Obafemi, was scaring the life out of United’s makeshift back three.

Injuries to Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly saw Mourinho deploy midfielders Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic alongside Phil Jones.

Unsurprisingly, they looked like complete strangers as Saints helped themselves to a 13th-minute opener.

Redmond danced along that unfamiliar backline before giving it to Obafemi, who showed the presence of mind to square it for the unmarked Armstrong on the right side of the box.

Fresh off his first goals for the club against Fulham last week, the Scot belted the ball into the far corner giving David De Gea no chance.

Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraReuters11 Scottish international Scott McTominay bizarrely knelt behind the wall for Cedric's fine goal
Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraGetty Images – Getty11 Armstrong has netted three Premier League goals in his last two appearances

Mario Lemina, once on Manchester City’s radar, was running things from midfield and just wanted it more as he crunched into a 50-50 with Rashford 23 yards out.

The Three Lions striker took out the Gabon ace, allowing wing-back Cedric to curl home a free-kick so deadly it had all the hallmarks of a Beckham classic.

The camera shot to Sir Alex Ferguson, who was sitting up in the stands.

The legendary Scot famously once changed United’s grey kit at half-time when losing at Southampton back in 1996.

And you wondered if the thought crossed Mourinho’s mind as he watched yet another horrorshow, just as had occurred down the coast at Brighton earlier in the season.

Nothing was going right, epitomised by Rashford spooning a shot into Row Z shortly after.

The only compliment you can pay this Mourinho side is that they never give up.

Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraGetty – Contributor11 Herrera reacts after equalising after getting on the end of a Marcus Rashford cross

Just ask Bournemouth or better yet, Juventus.

And with Saints having won just one league game at home in more than a YEAR, a comeback could never be ruled out.

So it proved – thanks to Rashford.

The England ace displayed all those attributes Mourinho wanted from his side with two world-class assists to drag United level.

First, he raced at the Saints backline and put laid on a pass so good that even a confidence-shot Lukaku could not miss.

The Belgian had not netted since the 2-1 win at Watford on September 15 but showed no nerves here as he blasted plast Alex McCarthy on 34 minutes.

Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraPA:Press Association11 Jose Mourinho's side continue to disappoint as pressure rises on the Special One
Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraReuters11 Luke Shaw went off injured in the second half as he returned to Southampton

Rashford’s tenacity and pace brought about the leveller as he bulldozed his way down the right of the box and cut back for Herrera to backheel delicately from close range. 2-2.

In fairness to United’s army of away fans, they had been singing songs of support even at the team’s lowest ebb in an example of other club’s more fickle contingents.

But the noise went up several decibels Herrera’s first Premier League goal since April 2017 hit the back of the net.

The Saints fans meanwhile fell silent, no doubt expecting their side to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as has happened so frequently in the last 18 months.

They were up in arms, along with their incandescent manager, just after the hour when Obafemi was felled by McTominay in the box but ref Kevin Friend waved no penalty.

Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraPA:Empics Sport11 Mark Hughes will be left bitterly disappointed after his side threw away a two-goal lead
Red Devils fight back from two goals down thanks to strikes from Romelu Lukaku and Ander HerreraReuters11 Rashford – who provided both assists for United – was replaced by Anthony Martial

That was the height of the action after the break, barring a Redmond scorcher from distance, as the game meandered towards a draw.

It extends Southampton’s winless run to ten league games and leaves them in the bottom three.

But the quality shown by Hughes’ side in that opening 20 may be enough to hold off the sack for now.

As for Mourinho, his marriage of convenience looks set to continue at United.

Yet there was nothing on show here to suggest anything would get any better in the future – let alone intensity, aggression or emotion.

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