Ralf Rangnick believes Manchester United took another "step forward" despite feeling as if they had lost after throwing away a two-goal lead in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.
United found themselves 2-0 up in the 67th minute thanks to Bruno Fernandes' brace, his first-half opener a result of an Emiliano Martinez error and his emphatic second coming after Morgan Sanson's poor pass.
But it was a case of United being unable to get over the line, with Jacob Ramsey pulling one back before then teeing up Philippe Coutinho to net the crucial equaliser on his debut with eight minutes left.
United did control large parts of the match and arguably looked at their most fluent in attack under Ralf Rangnick, with Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga both threatening from the flanks.
But Rangnick could not hide his frustration at United failing to maintain their level into the dying stages.
"It is very difficult to find positives after these 95 minutes," he told Sky Sports. "I felt it was the best game since I came here, in the first half for 30 minutes, when we dominated the game. We had taken some steps forward but have a few things to do better.
"The plan was to press them in the midzone and we did that very well in the first 30 minutes, and control the ball, and those were the positives. When you are 2-0 up you have to defend better than we did in the last 15 minutes.
"We gave away too many balls at times in the last 15 minutes, we were not as compact as before and conceded the two goals. In the last 15 minutes before half-time we were not as courageous to step up, it was better in the second half and then you have to take the three points home. It feels like a defeat, to be honest.
1 - Philippe Coutinho didn't manage a goal or assist in any of his seven Premier League appearances against Manchester United while playing for Liverpool (480 minutes), but netted Villa's equaliser just 14 minutes into his debut for the club. Dream. pic.twitter.com/0b0JEDVf4U— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2022
"Right now it's very disappointing but what we showed was a step forward, but it's about getting the results, it feels like two points lost and given away."
Fernandes' first goal was only his second since September, with the midfielder – who wore the captain's armband – appearing to thrive a little more in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, missing out with a hip injury.
While he acknowledged the performance was better than some recent efforts, Fernandes was left bemoaning United's lack of ruthless in the final third, something Ronaldo may have been able to do something about.
"We got into the perfect position to score more goals and take the third goal and finish the game, but we don't get our chance on the counters and gave the chances to them," he added.
"They have good players up front and draw the game, it is tough to take because I think the game was under control.
"After our first goal they began to press us more, but still we had our chances and could have scored again. Sometimes the shot was not good, or the pass was not good and you start losing confidence, the game got more open and they got more space between the lines. With the quality of players they have up front, they hurt you.
"The performance was better than the result, more controlled but the main point is winning games and points. We deserved more, but it's not about deserving, it's about getting points.
"We still have a lot to improve but it is about performance and results together."
United remain seventh in the Premier League as a result of the draw.