• Manager says mental softness is an issue after draw
• Fulham's René Meulensteen found opposition's frailties
David Moyes said that Manchester United were suffering from a "mental softness" and that he did not expect the champions to sink so low as they did in the 2-2 draw with Fulham at Old Trafford. The visiting manager, René Meulensteen, who left the champions' coaching staff in the summer, was also critical of United, branding their continual crossing as "partly straightforward" and easy to defend against.
Moyes's side were facing the ninth defeat of their title defence, and to the bottom-placed club following Steve Sidwell's opener, until the equaliser from Robin van Persie, on 78 minutes. Then Michael Carrick's goal moments later looked to have snatched victory. However four minutes into added time, Darren Bent completed a miserable afternoon for Moyes and United by securing a draw for Fulham, a goal the Scot described as "diabolical".
Moyes has continually stated it would be a turbulent first season in charge but with United now nine points from a Champions League berth, the manager admitted he did not expect his inaugural campaign to be so dire. "Probably not, no," Moyes said. "Today was as bad as it gets. How we didn't win, I have no idea. It's goals that count. You can have as much possession as you like."
Despite a record 81 crosses, Moyes accepted it was the familiar problem of not being able to put the opposition away. "I agree. Quite often you've seen similar games here where we have been the better team by far, the opposition have got a goal from a set-piece or on the break and then we've been chasing it, but we thoroughly deserved to win the game."
Bent's goal derived from Nemanja Vidic's weak clearing-header. While Moyes did not name his captain, he was scathing about the manner of the goal.
He said: "Even when it was 2-1 and they put five minutes [of added time] up Fulham never came up the pitch, they left us with the ball. So it was nearly a case of just playing out time and we gave away a diabolical second goal. If we had one failing it was that we should have gone to win 3-1. You could use maybe mental softness that we didn't see the job out and get the job done. I would agree with that."
Moyes denied that United's plan was merely to utilise the cross. "It was never one way," he said. "If you're just going to look at the stats and think about the crosses you need to think about the number of passes and I don't think we just went out and crossed the ball. Some people might say that one of the things that Manchester United do is play with width and cross the ball, that's in the genes here.
Yet Meulensteen said: "When I saw Manchester United today I thought the game plan was quite straightforward – get it wide, get it in, whether it was from the full-back pushing on or the supporting wide man and midfielder."
Is it easy to defend against if that is the unchanging game plan? "If you're well-organised and the goalkeeper is in good positions to come and collect the ball at times, yeah, it can be easy," said Meulensteen. "You need a little bit of creativity and a bit of variety at times to open [teams] up. The first goal they scored was from a ball that was in a second phase, fell and was a sort of pass across the goal that got tapped in. And the second came from a clearance then a shot and a deflection."
With Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City yet to come, Moyes struggled to offer any detailed answer regarding how United might beat them. "We just go into the next game and take the teams on and challenge them. We've got a good team and there will be very few teams desperate to play Manchester United," he said.