Monday 8 August 2022

Match report: Man Utd 1-2 Brighton&Hove Albion

The Erik ten Hag era began in familiar fashion as Manchester United opened the season with defeat to Brighton. 

The Dutchman had arrived at Old Trafford on a wave of optimism, tasked with revitalising a United side at its lowest ebb after our worst ever Premier League campaign.

There will be a few positives for him to take - Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez had impressive debuts and Harry Maguire already looked an improvement. But if ten Hag didn't know the size and scale of the task awaiting him before kick-off, he certainly does now.

His first team selection included two summer signings with Martinez alongside Maguire at the heart of the defence and Eriksen in the false nine role, flanked by Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, in the absence of the hamstrung Anthony Martial. 
Bruno Fernandes went close early on when he fired over in the sixth minute and the impressive Eriksen was denied by Robert Sanchez after a free-flowing move which involved Sancho, Fernandes and Rashford.

Pascal Gross has so often proved to be the thorn in United's side and the German link man played the decisive hand again on the half hour mark. Gross had scored in the infamous 4-0 at the Amex in May and also scored against United in the 1-0 victory which ensured the Seagulls survival back in 2019. 
Ex-Red Danny Welbeck also has an untimely habit of netting against his old side, but this time turned provider as he swept the ball across goal for Gross to steal in and turn the ball home.

Ten minutes further on, Gross popped up with his and his side's second, his fifth goal in ten meetings with the Reds. It started on the edge of the Brighton box, as Moises Caicedo moved the ball on to Adam Lallana. He in turn found Leandro Trossard who picked out Solly March to drive the ball low into the area. David de Gea got down to parry away but only as far as the onrushing Gross to sweep home on the rebound and stun Old Trafford into silence.

United were much improved in the second half, although to be fair that certainly wasn't saying much. The introduction of wantaway superstar Cristiano Ronaldo finally sparked United into life as he replaced the toiling Fred on 53 minutes. Eriksen dropped deeper alongside McTominay and the upturn was immediate.

Ronaldo picked out Rashford who was somehow denied by Sanchez when it looked easier to score. The
offside flag went up but replays showed Ronaldo was onside and the goal would have counted. Rashford went close again, this time after Fernandes had picked him out, but he failed to find a finish.

United were then fortunate to survive a penalty appeal when the lively line-leading Welbeck was shoved over off the ball by Martinez. Referee Paul Tierney may not have seen it but VAR did not intervene and the Reds were off the hook.

But United continued to press and set up a grandstand finish on 68 minutes as a Fernandes corner flicked off Diogo Dalot, struck Maguire and cannoned in off the stretching Alexis Mac Allister. VAR checked to see if there was a foul on Sanchez or a possible handball by Dalot, but under the laws of the game the goal was allowed to stand.

Sanchez saved from Dalot and Eriksen flashed a shot wide in the closing stages as Old Trafford roared the Reds on in pursuit of an unlikely leveller. But it was not to be as Graham Potter's impressive Seagulls, despite the departures of star men Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella, held on for the ever win in M16. 

Overall team performance: 5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Christian Eriksen 

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