Manchester United overcame a resilient Brighton & Hove Albion in a gritty 2-1 comeback win on Sunday evening. Ole’s men returned from the international break hoping to forget their FA Cup exit and did so in the toughest fashion. Goals from Marcus Rashford and Greenwood canceled out Welbeck’s early strike as United continued their unbeaten league form.
Ole went with a reliable starting lineup keeping Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, and Wan-Bissaka in their usual roles. Pogba and Fred were the backbones of the midfield behind Bruno, Mason, and Marcus Rashford. Edinson Cavani returned to the lineup as the sole striker. Ole’s biggest decision of the evening was keeping de Gea on the bench while playing Henderson as the first-choice keeper. The substitutes included van de Beek, McTominay, James, Amad, and Tuanzebe among others.
First Half- Struggles Galore
Manchester United started the game very well as they pushed into Brighton’s final third quickly. Although the decision-making and movement were still questionable, United were dominating the game in the opening minutes. Mason Greenwood hit the post with a brilliant volley as Manchester United looked to draw first blood. However, Brighton grew into the game quickly and found the opener in the 13th minute via ex-United player Danny Welbeck. A swerving cross from the right beat Lindelof and Welbeck burst into the 6-yard box to head the ball on target. Despite a great save from Henderson, the rebound popped back to Welbeck who gladly obliged. Poor judgment from Lindelof and poor marking from Wan-Bissaka but a solid attempt from Henderson. 10 down and yet again, the Red Devils needed a comeback in the game.
Brighton came close to doubling their lead when Dunk’s header clipped the top of the bar after a drilled freekick. Henderson spilled the ball in the box leading to some chaos but United escaped. The hosts were quite lackluster for most of the first half as they showed little pace and desire. Brighton were lying deep and essentially squeezed United’s forwards out with their disciplined defending. Cavani struggled to get in space as did Bruno. Harry Maguire pulled off an excellent sliding challenge in the 45th minute to deny Maupay a chance. At Half Time, United looked horrid and their final sequence of lethargic back-passes and static positioning underlined their quality.
Second Half- Marcus Rashford Time
It was obvious that Ole had a bigger task at hand than his counterpart. United’s display in the second half showed that the manager’s words had an effect. United started the second half with more desire and intensity as they pushed for an equalizer. Marcus Rashford unleashed a good shot from distance but the Brighton goalkeeper saved it comfortably. Minutes later, Pogba played a beautiful no-look pass towards Bruno in the box. However, a heavy first touch and a rushing goalkeeper denied Bruno a genuine chance. Brighton were defending resolutely thus far but cracks began to show. When this team struggles, there is one man who can make something out of nothing- Bruno Fernandes. In the 62nd minute, our Portuguese magnifico pounced on a loose pass and played an excellent pass to Rashford. The Englishman curled the effort into the far post giving United the equalizer they desperately waited for.
With the game now level, the hosts pushed harder for the winner. Greenwood came close yet again after a good sequence down on the right but to no avail. Brighton had a huge shout for a penalty as Welbeck went down in the box. VAR confirmed that there was no foul. Moments later, Dan James came on to replace Marcus Rashford. Bruno had another shot from distance saved comfortably by Brighton’s goalkeeper. Donny van de Beek was handed some playing time when he replaced Cavani in the 83rd minute.
The starman Bruno was instrumental in United’s go-ahead goal in the 84th minute. He ran down the left-wing and played a looping cross to Pogba. The French midfielder played a shot/cross to the center of the box where Greenwood gladly headed the ball into the net to complete the turnaround. Pogba came off after providing the assist and was replaced by Scott McTominay. Brighton pushed relentlessly to find their equalizer and some nervy set-pieces and corners tested United to the fullest. However, United’s back four persisted and kept Brighton out. At Full-Time, United fans took three points contently.
Full-Time Thoughts- Rashford and Mason fetch 3 Points!
The contrast between the first and second half was huge. They came out in the second half with more creativity and speed. Mason’s switch to a central role coupled with Bruno’s ruthless persistence gave United all three points. On a more humorous note, all three goals today were scored by United academy products although the first one came from the opponents. The Red Devils have now picked up 25 points from losing positions this season. The hosts certainly seemed out of ideas at first but Ole’s “Give it to Bruno” strategy worked yet again.
Manchester United sit in second place with 60 points. They are 4 ahead of Leicester, 9 ahead of Chelsea, and 11 ahead of Tottenham. Barring a calamity, United are set to secure Champions League qualification for next season. They can also further their quest for Champions League qualification in the Europa League. They travel to Spain for the 1st leg of their Europa League quarter-final fixture. After that, they return to England and square off against Tottenham in London. Ole will be a bit worried about facing Spurs who handed United an embarrassing defeat early in the season. As of now, United are in second place with a gritty win and one eye on the Europa League and their pursuit of silverware.