MANCHESTER, England — After a global break crammed with controversy and membership statements, Manchester United acquired a chance to let their soccer do the speaking. Somewhat than taking a constructive step ahead to assist regular the ship, Erik ten Hag and his workforce had been plunged additional into disaster by Brighton & Hove Albion.
Roberto De Zerbi’s facet gained 3-1 to finish United’s 31-match unbeaten run at Outdated Trafford of their first recreation since Jadon Sancho was banished from first-team coaching and Antony was given a depart of absence amid allegations of assault made in opposition to the winger. Brighton had been the final workforce to win a Premier League recreation right here greater than a yr in the past and have now overwhelmed United of their previous 4 league conferences.
United had been with out Sancho, Antony and injured pair Raphaël Varane and Mason Mount, however Brighton gained regardless of lacking Pervis Estupiñán, Solly March and Julio Enciso, whereas Billy Gilmour and Evan Ferguson had been solely named on the bench. De Zerbi picked a beginning XI that price £17 million in switch charges to assemble, roughly 1 / 4 of the £73m United paid Borussia Dortmund to signal Sancho in 2021.
Amid all of it, there have been the primary murmurs of supporter dissent geared toward Ten Hag with loud boos ringing across the stadium when the Dutchman substituted Rasmus Højlund for Anthony Martial with the rating at 2-0. Afterward, Ten Hag brushed it off, simply as he did on Friday when his information convention was dominated by questions on his public rift with Sancho.
The supervisor insists he is solely fascinated about issues on the pitch, however performances have not been a lot better than the chaos away from the precise soccer.
It is now three defeats from 5 video games, and even their two victories — in opposition to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest — got here courtesy of underwhelming performances from their opponents. Forest had been 2-0 up inside 4 minutes earlier than shedding 3-2, and when Brighton scored their second right here it was the primary time United had conceded a number of objectives in 4 straight league fixtures since 1979.
Ten Hag’s first season was stuffed with ups and downs however, most of the time, they stored clear sheets at Outdated Trafford and gained their dwelling video games. Now, it appears they can not even do this.
“We have to be disappointed and we have to be very annoyed with ourselves because at United the demand is you win games,” Ten Hag stated after the match. “We started well, we created chances and on the second attack from them and the first chance, it’s in. Then we have to do better with that setback. It’s the stage we are in at this moment. You have to look in the mirror, look at yourself and we have to improve.”
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, managers charged with filling his boots have discovered that issues can unravel in a short time. Ten Hag can solely hope he can mastermind a route again in a approach David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick all did not do.
It will not get any simpler with a Champions League journey to Bayern Munich to return on Wednesday adopted by an ungainly recreation at Turf Moor in opposition to Burnley three days later. United want a win from someplace and so they want it shortly.
“it’s about character, and now we have to see how strong we are and how the team sticks together and which players stand up and lead the team,” Ten Hag added. “Bayern Munich is one of the favourites to win the Champions League so we have to be good there and I already explained we need character, belief, resilience and determination, absolutely.”
It might need been totally different right here had VAR not dominated out an equaliser within the first half, when the ball was adjudged to have rolled out of play earlier than Marcus Rashford crossed for Højlund to faucet in, however there was nothing lucky about Brighton’s victory.
Their objectives got here on the break, however this was no smash and seize. Brighton had extra possession and extra pictures on track, and so they may have scored extra. The afternoon was summed up by the Brighton followers within the nook of the stadium who, throughout a spell of United strain in stoppage time, started to sing “we want our ball back.”
There have been small positives for Ten Hag, like his workforce’s energetic begin, Rashford’s efficiency and Hannibal‘s first senior purpose, however they had been few and much between.
It says every thing about how issues are going for United that Brighton’s first purpose was scored by one in every of their former gamers, Danny Welbeck. The purpose, nicely labored down the suitable and involving a intelligent dummy from Adam Lallana, equalled Brighton’s membership file of scoring in 16 successive away video games.
That is the place these two groups are at: Brighton, a membership on the up regardless of shedding key gamers over the summer time, are setting membership information whereas United are creating historical past for all of the improper causes. After all of the off-field troubles, the one statistic that basically issues is that United have misplaced three of their opening 5 video games for the primary time within the Premier League period.