Manchester United had luck on their side, as they took all three points from their first encounter with Brighton & Hove Albion since 1993. The game was a rather eventful affair, and Brighton were superb, playing with incredible hunger and desire.
However, they were undone by a piece of terrible refereeing and bad luck, and will go home feeling like they should have had a lot more from the game. United were far from their best, and will be thankful that they somehow managed to scrape through.
Here are 5 talking points from the encounter at Old Trafford:
5. Knockaert and Ryan star for the visitors
Despite Brighton’s defeat, all of their players have reason to be proud of themselves, and none more so than Anthony Knockaert for his display at Old Trafford. The French winger was at his blistering best, displaying his magnificent acceleration on the ball as he ran United’s defense ragged.
He was constantly dancing around and searching for crosses or decisive passes, and it’s fair to say that he was rather unlucky to be on the losing side for all his hard work.
When the scores were still 0-0 though, Matthew Ryan produced one of the moments of the match, making an incredible double save off of Romelu Lukaku’s header and Paul Pogba’s toe poke. His distribution was on point in the game too, and he will have felt rather disappointed to have been beaten by a wicked deflection off his own team mate.
4. Young’s magnificent renaissance continues
Despite his side struggling in the creativity department against Bríghton, Ashley Young was full of running and seemed like the only one in the United line-up capable of providing a defining moment in the first half. He ran at and constantly had the beating of the Seagulls’ full-backs throughout the game.
It was a marvelous display that capped off a superb few weeks for the Englishman, whose glowing form also recently helped him regain his status as an International footballer after a three-and-a-half year exile.
It was quite perfect then that Young would go on to provide the decisive moment of the game, as his massively deflected shot gave United all three points. However, he will be secretly cursing the match officials, who decided to jot the strike down as an own-goal by Lewis Dunk, and deny the 32-year-old his first Premier League goal in over two years.
3. United got lucky
There is no doubt that Brighton will go back home feeling absolutely robbed, and their feelings aren’t without justification. Everything about United’s only goal of the afternoon was down to pure luck and woeful refereeing.
Lukaku slid in and knocked the ball out of play, but in such a manner that it appeared to come off the Brighton defender. He then stood and stared at the linesman with his hands pointed to the corner flag as if he was absolutely certain it was a corner, and his antics somehow convinced the assistant to give the Belgian’s side a corner.
While the set-piece was then floated in, Lukaku tussled and fouled a player in the box, but the referee turned a blind eye and a few seconds later, Young received the ball on the edge of the area and let rip.
Not only was the build up frustratingly unlucky for the visitors, the goal itself had a huge hint of fortune, as Young’s shot took a massive deflection off Dunk and sailed into the net. Robbery at its finest.
2. Brighton played without fear
Quite often against the big sides away from home, you see the smaller clubs set up with either of two mentalities – they either sit back and hope for a draw, or go all out and play without any fear whatsoever.
Against Arsenal on the 1st of October, Brighton chose to go with the former tactic. The Seagulls only managed 33%, and were utterly outclassed, failing to find any reply to anything the Gunners threw at them.
However, while many expected more of the same at Old Trafford, Brighton surprised everyone by turning up to their first appearance at the legendary stadium since 1993. They made constant darting runs at United’s defense, and had a sense of adventure about them as well, that really troubled the Reds during the game.
Eventually though, United settled after working hard to increase the tempo in the second half, but Brighton took the game right to the wire, and should have scored a number of times. They just lacked someone to finish a number of gorgeous crosses that were put into the box, but they will undoubtedly have a lot of positives to take away from this game.
1. United looked bereft of ideas
With Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba all on the pitch at once, it seems unfathomable how Mourinho’s men found it so difficult to create chances and break through Brighton’s defense, irrespective of how tight it was. For large periods of the first half, United looked clueless, not knowing where to go and what to do as Brighton looked the more likely team to score.
They might have improved in the second period, but the fact that they still relied on an own goal to secure the win says it all. It is no wonder that Mourinho is desperate to sign a creative winger, but his side has more than enough quality to rip teams apart.
They have been unable to do so, though, and there is something that appears to be holding them back that the Portuguese coach must address as he leads his team into the crunch festive period. City are overflowing with goals at the moment, and United need to catch up as soon as possible, or this will be a one horse race.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.