Late drama was the name of the game as Manchester United defeated Brighton 3-2 at the Amex Stadium in stunning fashion.
One has to feel bad for the home side who gave it their all throughout the fixture. They opened the scoring via Neal Maupay who scored from a penalty after a Bruno Fernandes foul inside the box. The characters will remain relevant late into the fixture as well.
Following that, United had to rely on a scrappy spell of play that saw Lewis Dunk concede an own-goal. Dunk was likewise involved in an embarrassing encounter in the second-half that saw an excellent Marcus Rashford attempt end up in the back of the net.
It was clear that Graham Potter’s side wouldn’t be content with giving up the lead and sure enough, late in extra time, they netted an equalizer through Solly March’s scrappy header.
However, that wasn’t the end as Maupay, now probably regretting his ‘crying’ celebration from earlier, gave away a hand-ball, and the ensuing penalty, awarded after the full-time whistle, was swept into the back of the net by Fernandes.
1. Patchwork Defense Still Leaky
Yet again questions will be raised of United’s defense. In the pre-match press-conference, Solskjær seemed to indicate that no investments would be made with regard to centre-backs and instead expressed positivity over Eric Bailly returning to fitness.
However, United conceded their second goal when all three of their available centre-backs were on the field, seemingly to no avail.
While David De Gea made one excellent save on the night to compose the critical eye trained on him, the centre-back duo still have a lot to figure out despite their positive numbers from last campaign.
2. Rashford’s Excellent Goal
It cannot be further highlighted that United didn’t have their best game. Solskjær would have been expecting the same brand of creativity that had been characteristic of them post-lockdown but that wasn’t the case.
However, the short spell of play leading up to Rashford’s goal certainly had that quality. Minutes earlier, a deft Mason Greenwood pass to Rashford had ended up as a goal anyway but was ruled offside. Perhaps building up on that, the English forward took the entirety of the Brighton backline on a joy ride before thumping one into the back of the net.
Fans will be hoping for more of the same from Rashford who now has two goals in two games.
3. Mixed Bag from the Attacking Trident
While Rashford was overwhelmingly the club’s best player during the game, even he seemed to switch off at times.
As for Mason Greenwood, the teenager was unable to replicate his erstwhile impact, with both of his significant efforts, one a goal and the other an assist, being ruled offside.
But most worryingly of it all, Anthony Martial seemed completely out of the fixture. The French striker is yet to open his tally for the campaign and in this game, he only managed one shot to his name.
4. Brighton’s Woodwork Woes
Brighton and Hove Albion contributed the lion’s share of effort to make this an exciting fixture.
In fact, with 18 attempts, 54% of the possession, over 400 passes, and a whopping 7 corners, it is cruel that the side didn’t even come out of the game with the sole point they would have momentarily thought to be theirs.
However, more than any of the above crucial statistics, the fact that they hit the woodwork a whopping five times will hurt the most. Leandro Trossard, in particular, ought to have had a hattrick had his shots been more targeted.
If even a sliver of this is replicated on Wednesday when the side takes on United once more in the Carabao Cup, another electric fixture will be on hand.
5. VAR Effectiveness Proved
If nothing else, this game perfectly illustrated the need for VAR in modern-day football.
The technology had to intervene regularly during the fixture and made four crucial decisions. Two of these favoured United while two others worked against them.
Firstly, Rashford and Greenwood had goals revoked due to being passed from an offside position although in those cases the officials on the lines being instructed to not declare offside in the buildup would have been the reason.
However, two penalty incidents also saw VAR involvement. In the first one, Paul Pogba was shown a yellow-card and seemed to have given away a penalty after an alteration inside the box. After doubt was thrown upon it, the referee changed his decision and revoked it.
To Brighton’s dismay, the opposite happened late on, when a slim handball was caught and the penalty awarded. In both cases, the on-field referee going and checking the encounter for himself was stamped as a vital addition to the VAR-rule.