Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Match Report: Manchester United 1-3 Brighton

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Manchester United fell to a second successive Premier League defeat on Saturday afternoon as the Reds lost 3-1 to Roberto De Zerbi’s clinical Brighton and Hove Albion side at Old Trafford in a game where they were simply second best.

It was not a happy return from the international break for United, losing in a game that many supporters said they had to win.

There was very little consolation to take for the home fans after their side conceded three goals with no reply before a fine substitute strike spared a few blushes.

How it went down

It was Erik ten Hag’s side that started the livelier of the two for the Saturday 3pm kick-off. 

New signing Sergio Reguilon was particularly bright throughout the opening stages, and he was unlucky not to have an assist on his United debut after finding Marcus Rashford well in the box, but the latter could not generate enough power on his effort after shimmying past a couple of defenders.

Fellow new signing Rasmus Hojlund was inches away from poking home his first goal in a red shirt after some fantastic counter-attacking play from the men behind him. Christian Eriksen set Bruno Fernandes charging into the attack following a smooth roulette in the middle of the park that took Mahmoud Dahoud out of the game. Fernandes played a delightful pass with the outside of his right boot to thread Rashford in down the left wing. The Englishman then spotted the intelligent run from Hojlund across the box ahead of Lewis Dunk, but the striker failed to get good contact on the ball, agonisingly, as the opportunity went begging.

The chance felt ever more agonising ten minutes later when Danny Welbeck gave Brighton the lead against his former club. Completely against the run of play, Simon Adingra fired in a cross from the right wing that Victor Lindelof and another Brighton forward failed to meet, which left Welbeck unmarked in the middle of the area to slot home. He was never going to miss, and it was all too easy for the visitors. 

United plateaued after the opener before Hojlund seemingly equalised after poking home from Rashford’s cross from the byline; however, following a VAR review, the goal was ruled out as the ball was deemed to have crossed the line before Rashford cut it back just before half-time.

United came out with attacking intent in the second half and perhaps should have drawn level when Rashford, perhaps greedily, opted to shoot on a tight angle, opting to ignore the darting run of debutant Hojlund in the middle of the area.

Things went from bad to worse for Ten Hag after the break when Tariq Lamptey found Pascal Gross inside the area before the German dropped the shoulder clear of both Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez and tucked the ball beyond a helpless Andre Onana in the 53rd minute. The German midfielder is Brighton’s all-time top scorer in the Premier League and he has certainly had his fair share of goals against the Red Devils in recent times.

Whilst the efforts could not be faulted, the quality simply was not there from a trailing United side that never really took the game by the scruff of the neck as they should have, two goals down.

The game then entered a crisis stage for the home side in the 71st minute when Joao Pedro met Lamptey’s cross from the left with a clever, lifted finish into the far corner, despite Onana getting a hand to it. The Seagulls, despite not playing an abundance of attacking football, were three goals to the good at the Theatre of Dreams.

United’s humiliating deficit was more or less immediately reduced when surprise substitute Hannibal Mejbri rifled a clinical finish past Jason Steele from just outside the box in the 73rd minute. The 20-year-old Tunisian midfielder looked delighted to score his first senior goal for his boyhood club.

Nevertheless, a comeback was not meant to be for United who fell to a third defeat in the opening five Premier League games.

Final Score: Manchester United 1-3 Brighton and Hove Albion (Mejbri 73’) (Welbeck 20’, Gross 53’, Pedro 71’)

Player ratings and lineups

Starting XI

24     Andre Onana (5)

20     Diogo Dalot (6)

2       Victor Lindelof (6) 

6       Lisandro Martinez (6) (off 85’ for Aaron Wan-Bissaka)

15     Sergio Reguilon (6) (off 85’ for Alejandro Garnacho)

18     Casemiro (4) (off 64’ for Hannibal Mejbri)

39     Scott McTominay (4) (off 85’ for Facundo Pellistri)

14     Christian Eriksen (4)

8       Bruno Fernandes (5)

10     Marcus Rashford (4)

11     Rasmus Hojlund (6) (off 64’ for Anthony Martial)


1      Altay Bayindir 

29    Aaron Wan-Bissaka (6) (on 85’ for Lisandro Martinez)

5      Harry Maguire

35    Jonny Evans

44    Daniel Gore

46    Hannibal Mejbri (7) (on 64’ for Casemiro)

28    Facundo Pellistri (6) (on 85’ for Scott McTominay)

17    Alejandro Garnacho (6) (on 85’ for Serigo Reguilon)

9      Anthony Martial (5) (on 64’ for Rasmus Hojlund)

Man of the match

In a game where Man United as a team failed to stamp authority when trailing, the Man of the Match award has to go to the one player who did stamp his authority on the game- Mejbri.

Truth be told, he did not do an awful lot aside from his goal, but that is more a reflection on the rest of the senior players around him not gelling together well enough.

His strike was delightful, though, and his effort and passion could not be faulted at three goals down on home soil. That goal could be up there for a club award at the end of the season, you never know.

The bigger picture

There are very worrying signs for Ten Hag, with United having taken six points from a possible fifteen in the first games of the new campaign. With Bayern Munich next, it does not look like it will immediately get better, either.

Naturally, football fans will look where to shed the blame. The doubts that are appearing in the manager seem misdirected in the eyes of many, though. Some think that, with Antony suspended amid assault allegations, with Sancho currently banished to the reserves after a social media post undermining his boss, and with the future of the club ownership still being in jeopardy, there are a few obstacles for Ten Hag early on in the season that cannot be ignored.

The manager was not backed well enough in the summer transfer window; after looking nailed on to sign new Bayern Munich centre-back Kim Min Jae, Ten Hag ended up with 35-year-old Jonny Evans and the retention of Harry Maguire. Ineptly, the club failed to get Hojlund in good time and the new young striker has not had a pre-season. Sofyan Amrabat came in on loan on deadline day after one of the biggest clubs in the world failed to muster up £25m to sign the Moroccan weeks earlier and have him embedded in the squad.

Do not forget, either, that Mason Greenwood was expected to be brought back into the side before a social media backlash led to a complete, cowardly U-turn by club CEO Richard Arnold.

Critics will say that the Glazers do not pick the team and train the players and that United should be doing better with what is at the manager’s disposal. Whilst there might be some truth to that, true or false, the bottom line remains that Man United will not consistently challenge for the major honours until the poison is removed from the roots of the club and some new owners come in and clear house. 

From the disinterested, money-motivated owners to the inept bankers who are employed in critical sporting positions, they all need clearing out. Then, and only then, would it be fair to judge Ten Hag. No manager- past or present- could win a Premier League title in the Old Trafford hot-seat right now.

Taking it back on the field, fans will expect things to get better, naturally. How long that will take- that remains to be seen.

What is next?

Next up for Ten Hag and Man United is an away trip to the Allianz Arena to take on Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern Munich in the first matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stages, taking place on Wednesday 20th September at 20:00 (BST). After that, the Reds return to Premier League action against Vincent Kompany’s struggling Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday 23rd September, also kicking off at 20:00 (BST)

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