Manchester United suffered a humiliating 1-3 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Sunday. Erik Ten Hag’s men began well but were comprehensively outclassed by the Seagulls. This is their second straight defeat in the Premier League after their loss at Arsenal two weeks ago.
Goals from Danny Welbeck, Pascal Grob, and Joao Pedro left the Red Devils staring at an embarrassing defeat. Academy graduate Hannibal Mejbri scored his first senior team goal to make the scoreline look less harsh for the hosts.
However, Roberto De Zerbi’s men looked more dangerous and likely to add to their lead in the closing minutes of the game. Only a great save from new signing Andre Onana prevented Ansu Fati from scoring a 1v1 chance for the visitors.
The defeat leaves the Red Devils 13th on the Premier League table, with just 6 points from their first five games. Ten Hag’s men have only won two unconvincing games against Wolves and Nottingham so far this season. Here are the key takeaways from the Manchester United vs Brighton game:
1. Lack Of In-Game Management
Ten Hag set his team up in a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond. Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen, and Casemiro were deployed behind Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford. United’s narrow pressing structure caused the Seagulls some early problems, allowing the home team to dominate proceedings for the first 20 minutes.
Ten Hag: "We are disappointed. But it was really small margins. We are so close against a good side. The first 20 minutes was all ours. We created chances but didn't score." [sky] #mufc
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) September 16, 2023
However, Roberto De Zerbi switched his game plan and involved full-backs Veltman and Lamptey in more action on the ball. Since Manchester United were playing without wingers, Brighton were able to progress play to the middle third with ease. Ten Hag failed to adequately adapt to the tweak for the rest of the game, and lost out on initiative.
The lack of flexibility and in-game innovation is a problem United have faced for a while now. The best managers in the world are always ready to drop their Plan “A” and deploy a contingency plan if things don’t go their way.
2. The Squad Looks Thinner Every Week
Manchester United went into the game without Antony and Jadon Sancho. The former has “delayed his return” to the team following concerning allegations of abuse. Sancho on the other hand, seemingly had a public fallout with Ten Hag after the Arsenal game. The Dutchman left the winger out of the match squad once again. The former Dortmund man is also not training with the first team and is unlikely to return to action soon.
With Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Raphael Varane, and Mason Mount also missing, Ten Hag had to make the best of the options at hand. The players looked unfamiliar with the diamond formation and failed to form enough cohesive attacks throughout the game.
Furthermore, the Dutch manager had limited options to throw on from the bench. Anthony Martial and Facundo Pellestri, who are both lacking minutes and consistency, were thrown in with the team chasing two goals in the end.
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3. Tricky Test Ahead
Manchester United must turn their focus on the midweek Champions League clash against Bayern Munich. Under Thomas Tuchel, the German giants are looking a formidable unit, and will be difficult to overcome.
Bayern Munich are currently second on the Bundesliga table, with 3 wins and a draw in 4 games. New signings Harry Kane and Kim Min-Jae have slotted perfectly into the team, and pose a serious threat in attack and defense respectively.
What went wrong for Manchester United against Brighton? What should Ten Hag change for the next game? Let us know in the comments.
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