Manchester United’s dismal start to the new Premier League season continued as they lost 3-1 to Brighton for the fourth top-flight game in a row.
For the first time in 34 years, Man Utd have lost three of their first five league games of a season, with the Old Trafford defeat ending a run of 20 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League.
The irony was in the performance – far better from Man Utd, with Rasmus Hojlund and Sergio Reguilon impressing on their first starts and Marcus Rashford looking lively on the left wing.
But they were undone by some questionable defending for all three of Brighton’s goals, with the visitors not allowing any mistake to go unpunished.
Former Man Utd striker Danny Welbeck was left unmarked as he swept home the 20th-minute opener. After the break, neither Lisandro Martinez nor Victor Lindelof reacted quickly enough to intercept Tariq Lamptey’s passive pass, allowing Pascal Gross to double the visitors’ lead in the 53rd minute.
In a similar fashion, Joao Pedro was allowed plenty of space at the top of the area to curl home a delightful third in the 71st minute, although Hannibal Mejbri immediately replied two minutes later for the hosts. However, it did not spark the comeback Old Trafford craved.
Rashford has nine shots – but no goals
Marcus Rashford attempted nine shots against Brighton, his most ever in a single Premier League match, and the most by a Man Utd player without scoring in the competition since Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Burnley in October 2016 (12).
Only against fierce rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have Man Utd lost four successive Premier League games, with Brighton quickly becoming their bogey team. The result sees Erik ten Hag’s side drop into 12th place with six points.
Meanwhile, Brighton jump up to fourth place after a fourth win in their opening five league games this season, boosting them further ahead of their first Europa League game on Thursday.
Manchester United: Onana (6), Dalot (7), Lindelof (5), Martinez (5), Reguilon (7), Casemiro (6), Eriksen (7), McTominay (6), Fernandes (7), Hojlund (7), Rashford (7).
Subs: Martial (6), Hannibal (6), Garnacho (n/a), Pellistri (n/a), Wan-Bissaka (n/a).
Brighton: Steele (7), Lamptey (8), Dunk (7), Van Hecke (8), Veltman (7), Dahoud (6), Lallana (6), Gross (7), Adingra (7), Welbeck (6), Mitoma (7).
Subs: Fati (7), Pedro (7), Gilmour (6), Milner (6), Ferguson (n/a).
Player of the match: Tariq Lamptey.
How Brighton beat Man Utd again
Man Utd began brightly at Old Trafford. Inside six minutes, Rashford was expertly picked out by Reguilon, but the England forward’s effort was seen away by Jason Steele’s foot.
Soon after, Hojlund almost opened his Premier League account on his first start for the club. However, he could not quite reach Rashford’s low pass.
Brighton then began to find a foothold in the game, and in the 20th minute, Welbeck scored his fourth goal against his former side. The striker picked out Simon Adingra down the right, with the latter’s cutback finding an unmarked Welbeck as he lashed home past Andre Onana.
Rashford looked the most likely to equalise for Manchester United – his thunderous strike from range was blocked by Mahmoud Dahoud soon after Brighton’s opener. Then, a fine solo run saw his shot ricochet off Joel Veltman’s back and ping off the top of the crossbar. Late in the half, another effort from range blazed over.
Just before the last Rashford miss, Hojlund thought he had equalised for Man Utd in the 40th minute. However, Rashford’s cross into the area had gone out of play before he delivered, with the Dane’s strike correctly ruled out by VAR.
- Rasmus Hojlund and Sergio Reguilon made their first Man Utd starts in three changes. Scott McTominay also came into the XI, replacing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Anthony Martial and Antony.
- Brighton made six changes from the win against Newcastle. Evan Ferguson made the bench, but there was not place in the squad for Pervis Estupinan.
- Bart Verbruggen, Billy Gilmour, Solly March and Joao Pedro also dropped out. Jason Steele, Tariq Lamptey, Mahmoud Dahoud, Adam Lallana, Danny Welbeck and Simon Adringra came into the XI at Old Trafford.
Man Utd ended the first with only one of their eight shots on target, and after two wasted moments from Rashford, Brighton capitalised on more lackadaisical defending to double their lead.
Lamptey’s cross into the area had little conviction, but neither Lindelof nor Martinez could react in time. It allowed a waiting Gross to snatch the ball up before rifling home his seventh goal against United.
There were loud boos around Old Trafford as Hojlund was replaced by Antony Martial in the 64th minute. The afternoon deteriorated further as Brighton added a third. A far better cutback from Lamptey found an unmarked Pedro at the top of the area and it was a sweet strike that beat Onana.
Just as Man Utd fans started heading for the exits, their team pulled a goal back almost immediately. It was ultimately a speculative effort from Mejbri, who fired home into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
But it was Brighton who could have added a few more before the end of the game. The biggest chance fell to debutant Ansu Fati, but his strike was pushed away well by Onana.
Ten Hag insists Man Utd are not in crisis despite Brighton defeat
Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag:
“We must stick together and stick to the plan and the rules and we will turn this around.
“It bothers me [the form], but I have to see the way we play. It’s about character, we have to see how strong we are and how the team sticks together. Players standing up and showing character because in all the games, especially the game today [Saturday] and against Arsenal and Forest, we have seen we can play well and create chances.
“But we also have some improvements to make and we have to step up.”
On the boos as Martial came on for Hojlund: “I think it was positive. You see from the fans in first moment at Old Trafford, the reception was great. Hojlund performed very well, good that they gave this signal, this message will give Rasmus belief. He came in with small issue, he’s not ready for a whole game.
“If Hojlund gets injured because he is not capable to play 90 minutes, then we are much further away from where we want to go.”
Ten Hag added: “The booing was because Rasmus came off. But I think Martial last year when he played, he had a positive effect on our games… when he is fit, he will contribute. He is not top fit at this moment, but he is improving. When he is 100 per cent fit, he will contribute like last season.”
Neville: Big concern is this wasn’t a surprise
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville:
“I’ve just got back from Old Trafford and you always have to be optimistic pre-match but the most concerning thing is what we ended up watching wasn’t a surprise. This wasn’t a lack of effort or a group of players not interested. This was a team well-beaten by opponents that were well drilled and knew what they were doing. Simple as that…
“Oh and yes the Glazers are responsible. It’s how it works. You own a business and everything good and bad sits with you! They inherited the best in all areas. They’ve overseen 10 years of mediocrity off the pitch and on the pitch. They set the culture of greed, ill-discipline, indecision and uncertainty that runs right through the club.
“It would be best if they sold the club with some speed and efficiency and allowed at least the off the pitch items to be corrected properly that reset the tone and culture. Football is volatile so results on the pitch can be erratic and cyclical but if the off the pitch stuff including the owners direction and leadership are spot on it gives you a better chance to succeed on it.”
De Zerbi: We played a good game because we have a great squad
Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi:
“I think we played a great game, especially in the second half. For 15 minutes at the start, we suffered a lot, the pressure, the different positions of the Man United.
“But after that, we played a good game because we have a great squad, we can change two players in every position on the pitch and without Estupinan and Solly, the characteristics change, but the quality of the players, no.
“In the second half, I think we kept the ball in a very good way, but sometimes we could have attacked with more energy. But we didn’t want to concede the counter-attack, that was the focus. But we could score more goals, especially in the last 25 minutes. The goal we conceded, I didn’t understand the dynamic of the goal but the result I think is true.”
How the match played out
Opta stats – Man Utd racking up the goals conceded
- Brighton’s Pascal Gross has scored seven Premier League goals against Man Utd – accounting for a quarter of his overall total in the competition (7/28). Four of those have come at Old Trafford; only Mo Salah and Steven Gerrard (both 5) have more as a visiting player at Old Trafford in the Premier League’s history.
- Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi became only the eighth manager to win both of his first two Premier League games against Manchester United, after Glenn Hoddle, José Mourinho, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Carlo Ancelotti, Garry Monk and Mikel Arteta.
- Manchester United have conceded two or more goals in each of their last four Premier League games, their joint-longest such run in the competition (also four from May-August 2001).
Manchester United’s next game is a trip to Bayern Munich on Wednesday as they begin their Champions League campaign – kick-off 8pm.
Erik ten Hag’s side then return to Premier League action at Burnley on Saturday – kick-off 8pm.
Brighton’s next outing is at home to AEK Athens on Thursday as they begin their Europa League campaign – kick-off 8pm.
The Seagulls then return to Premier League action at home to Bournemouth on September 24 – kick-off 2pm.