Saturday night saw Manchester United cruise to yet another victory at Old Trafford, as the encounter against Brighton ended 1-0 courtesy of an unfortunate own goal from Lewis Dunk.
The Red Devils were as good as second best in the first half, where the visiting side put up a brilliant performance both defensively and offensively.
But in the second half, the home side was certainly rejuvenated, and the individual efforts of Knockaert and goalkeeper Ryan didn’t prove enough to salvage even a single point.
All in all, Old Trafford remained a fortress, and United will consider themselves lucky to still maintain the eight-point gap against Manchester City.
David De Gea- 7.2
A comfortable clean sheet for the Spaniard who was denied one last week against Newcastle. Early on in the first half, De Gea’s well-timed save ensured that the Red Devils didn’t have much to worry about, and apart from two occasions, he wasn’t even bothered much by the Brighton attackers.
Antonio Valencia- 7.5
The captain was in remarkable form as always. In the first half, in particular, his defensive strengths were on full show at both ends of the field, and his tackles were a page out of a masterclass. However, it was quite visible that when he and fellow wing-back Young drifted ahead, the two center-backs seemed to be far too open for comfort, and the visiting side nearly took advantage of that in the first half.
Chris Smalling- 6.9
In the absence of Bailly and Jones, who are out with injuries, the Englishman certainly put up a strong show and provided two vital interceptions in the second half of the game. His aerial game wasn’t at its usual best today, as a header that could have been maneuvered skillfully to provide them with the second goal was simply not to be.
Victor Lindelof- 7.0
A man redeemed. The new signing has been the subject of much scrutiny over the months due to clumsy mistakes on his part that have led United to concede most of the few goals they have this season. But being trusted by Mourinho with the start today, albeit forced by Jones’s injury, the Swede certainly put up a great show. A strong tackle on Knockaert in the second-half was his most visible moment of the game.
It was Young’s shot that bounced off Dunk and provided Old Trafford’s moment of cheer for the night. Even apart from that, the veteran player has been in shockingly good form, one which many were initially skeptical about. For the time being, he has eased Mourinho’s worry over what is to be done with the position.
Usually a vital cog in the manner in which United function, Matic has been looking a bit off over the last two weeks. For much of the game, he was paired with Pogba in deep, but didn’t seem to function with the usual flair of a holding midfielder. It almost seemed that Pogba’s constant runs into the offense gave too much work to be done for one man alone. Regardless, he kept up his passing brilliance during the fixture.
Paul Pogba- 8.4
90 minutes played and fully back from injury. While the Frenchman didn’t score nor create during the encounter, he was still arguably the best player on the pitch. His debut season’s uneasy and overly eager performances were eased on the night, as a cool and fluid style of play was employed. However, till Fellaini was substituted into the team, he seemed a bit unbalanced here and there when paired with Matic. For nearly the entirety of the first half, he was perhaps deployed far deeper than he would have enjoyed. Now completely fit, he’ll be looking to return to usual ruthless business.
The youngster doesn’t stop to amaze, and the night was no different. Deployed in a manner that he often played alongside Lukaku in a 4-2-2, he certainly seemed at ease. His speed and swift reaction time nearly caused great problems for the Brighton defense, which was, on several occasions, caught unaware by his well-timed runs.
Martial didn’t seem entirely in it during the match. Apart from his usual runs into the box in manners that confound defenders, nothing special was achieved by the Frenchman. Much like the performance against Newcastle, sharing a pitch with Rashford had been working on and off. Despite being given his preferred spot, the performance and clinical skill that Mourinho would have required of him was nowhere to be seen. Back to the bench?
Juan Mata- 6.6
Benefiting off Mkhitaryan’s bad form, the Spaniard didn’t show what was being expected of him. While he did take several shots, very few had the usual flair that he has been renowned for at Old Trafford. Being subbed for Ibrahimović, the position might potentially be lost to him if this continues.
Romelu Lukaku- 8.0
A player whose work rate has been questioned all the time gave the apt reply today. While he didn’t find the back of the net, and he will be frustrated by that, the Belgian looked tactically sound and clinically able on the night. Mourinho will now be expecting goals.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic- 6.7
Still, no goal for the lion returned. However, he did look more comfortable in the no.10 role, similar to the one he was deployed in against Basel a few days ago. His general prowess is key to the longtime success of United’s attack, and it will be interesting to see how Mourinho chooses to deal with that.
Dropped by Mourinho for two matches, the Armenian has been under pressure to perform. But the substitute appearance didn’t seem to possess what he had at the start of the season, and that is a cause for much worry.
Amid speculation of a move away from Old Trafford, the Belgian was able to ease the central midfield problem of balance for a few minutes. Perhaps he could have been used by Mourinho earlier, as Pogba was truly freed after the big man came on in place of Rashford.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Written by Naveen Kelvin
A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.