Gary Neville has hit out at Jose Mourinho for allowing an injured Chris Smalling back onto the pitch prior to Leicester City’s late equaliser against Manchester United.
The Englishman picked up what looked like a thigh or hamstring injury jumping for the ball and briefly came off the pitch as injury time approach.
He was sent back on but Jose Mourinho was quick to rue the decision as Mark Albrighton’s cross sailed over the defender before Harry Maguire guided home an inexplicable equaliser.
And Neville, speaking on Sky Sports after the game, could help but express his exasperation at Mourinho’s late decision making.
“It’s an unbelievable cross from Albrighton,” he said. “But Chris Smalling has just come back onto the pitch into a central defensive position, I cannot believe he’s gone back on in there into a position to pick up the best header of the ball at the back post. ”
“You see him limping there at the back post with Ashley Young, and it’s incredible. He had a chance in the first half Maguire, it’s an unbelievable finish to this match. ‘The quality is wonderful from Albrighton, the finish is fantastic.”
While Mourinho cannot take the blame for Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all spurning golden chances, his failure to maintain a stable back-line as the final whistle approach was nothing short of mind-boggling.
The 54-year-old had used all of his substitutes and Smalling was clearly in no state to be on the pitch, but with Leicester down to ten men this wasn’t much of a problem.
Surely the solution was simple? Take Smalling off, put Nemanja Matic in his position, leave everyone else where they are, and see the game out. Job done. The Serbian would have comfortable headed away that Albrighton ball. He would have volleyed the damn thing.
Whether communication was an issue during a noisy crescendo to the game, I don’t know – but the whole faux pas seems to fall in line with a few internal jitters occurring on the pitch and, perhaps, in Mourinho’s tone during press conferences in recent weeks.