Manchester United reached new lows on Saturday evening, losing by a whopping four goals to a Brighton side that outclassed them in every area of the pitch at the Amex Stadium, a result that factually confirms this United side to be the worst of the Premier League era.
How did United set up?
Following one of the better displays of the season against Brentford last Monday night, many fans had been calling on Ralf Rangnick to name an unchanged starting side for the trip to the South Coast. The German interim boss adhered to those wishes, with the same personnel named amongst the starters.
In fact, the only changes to the entire matchday squad were Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who replaced Eric Bailly (back problems) and Marcus Rashford (bronchitis) on the bench.
Here was the starting lineup and substitutes:
Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Diogo Dalot (RB), Victor Lindelöf (CB), Raphael Varane (CB), Alex Telles (LB), Nemanja Matic (CDM), Scott McTominay (CM), Juan Mata (CAM) Anthony Elanga (RW), Bruno Fernandes (LW), Cristiano Ronaldo (ST).
Substitutes: Dean Henderson, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Alvaro Fernandez, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Alejandro Garnacho, Edison Cavani.
How it went down
It was a tame start to the game from United, with the midfield often struggling to connect any passages of play through to the attack. Brighton had hardly been electrifying themselves, but the home side found themselves in front on the 15th-minute mark via Moises Caicedo’s strike.
It was a mediocre headed clearance from Telles that allowed Pascal Gross to get a shot away. Telles did well to block the effort, but the ball found its way to Caicedo outside the area, and the Ecuadorian drilled in a fine strike through the legs of Lindelof and beyond the reach of De Gea for his first Premier League goal.Embed from Getty Images
The goal sparked somewhat of a response from the visitors, with The Reds creating some tidy passing sequences in Brighton’s half, but nothing really came to anything of any worth.
Elanga was caught by the studs of Yves Bissouma in the 30th minute, and it summed up a rather dismal half for the 19-year-old, who was beaten in most of his duels and failed to muster up anything going forward.
Ronaldo failed to convert from a free-kick towards the end of the half, with the Portuguese firing way over the bar, much to the pleasure of the jeering home crowd.
Elanga and Matic were off and Cavani and Fred were on for United after the break, with Rangnick desperate to spark some life into his players.
The frustration of the first half carried on into the second, however, with Dalot booked for a rash challenge just minutes after play resumed.
Just moments after, Brighton doubled their lead inside 49 minutes. The ball was thrown into the box from the right-wing, and play was able to be switched over to the left way too easily, where Leandro Trossard pulled it back for an unmarked Marc Cucurella, and the Spaniard belted a powerful strike into the roof of De Gea’s goal inside the area.
Mata fired a decent volley at goal in the immediate aftermath, but The Seagulls had their third in the 57th minute. Half-hearted pressing from United allowed Trossard to tee up Gross, with the German dancing around Varane and rolling it in with ease to make his personal record against United even better.Embed from Getty Images
In the blink of an eye, it was four. Former United man Danny Welbeck was slipped in on the right-hand side after losing the eye of Varane, managing to chip the ball towards goal. Dalot did well to get back and attempt to clear it off the line, but his clearance bounced off the chest of Trossard who capped a truly golden hour for Graham Potter’s team as the sun beamed down on the turf.
Final score: Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 Manchester United (Caicedo 15’, Cucurella 49’, Gross 57’, Trossard 60’)
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
Nobody deserves a shout after being thumped like that, but for the sake of giving it anyone, Maguire didn’t do anything wrong when he came on.
Rangnick brought the Englishman on at 4-0 to buff up the defence with three centre-backs, and the 29-year-old helped stop Brighton from scoring again.
The £80m man nearly bagged a consolation strike as well with a powerful header from a corner, even managing to set Cavani up for an offside goal.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
After an impressive team display in the 3-0 win over Brentford that showed togetherness, unity and quality, it was immensely disappointing today to see such a feeble and tame showing from the exact same group of players. The likes of Mata and Matic who stole the show on their Old Trafford farewells looked washed up at the Amex Stadium. Varane was abysmal at times, as were the rest of the defence.
The loss epitomised what United have been all about this season – inconsistency, lacking in quality and weak mentality.
The 4-0 loss means the team have now conceded three goals or more on seven different occasions this season.
Not so fun fact – Brighton scored 25% of their home goals of 2021/22 against Manchester United (4 of 16).
Not many fans are shocked by this result. If anything, it reinforces what many already know. Erik Ten Hag has a massive job on his hands; he will have to remove the poor quality out of this side, get rid of the losing mentality, bring in the right profile of player and instil some inspiration into the fanbase. There is an hour-long conversation to be had over what needs to be done, but that summarises it well in a sentence.
The sooner this season ends, the better.
The final game of the campaign comes in two weeks’ time against Crystal Palace, set to kick off at 16:00 on Sunday 22nd May at Selhurst Park.