MANCHESTER, England — After a world break stuffed with controversy and membership statements, Manchester United acquired a possibility to let their soccer do the speaking. Reasonably than taking a optimistic step ahead to assist regular the ship, Erik ten Hag and his workforce have been plunged additional into disaster by Brighton & Hove Albion.
Roberto De Zerbi’s aspect gained 3-1 to finish United’s 31-match unbeaten run at Previous Trafford of their first recreation since Jadon Sancho was banished from first-team coaching and Antony was given a go away of absence amid allegations of assault made in opposition to the winger. Brighton have been the final workforce to win a Premier League recreation right here greater than a 12 months in the past and have now crushed United of their previous 4 league conferences.
United have 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 have 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.
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Amid all of it, there have been the primary murmurs of supporter dissent aimed 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 excited by 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 have 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 targets in 4 straight league fixtures since 1979.
Ten Hag’s first season was stuffed with ups and downs however, as a rule, they saved clear sheets at Previous Trafford and gained their dwelling video games. Now, it appears they can not even try this.
“We have now to be disillusioned and now we have to be very aggravated with ourselves as a result of at United the demand is you win video games,” Ten Hag stated after the match. “We began nicely, we created probabilities and on the second assault from them and the primary likelihood, it is in. Then now we have to do higher with that setback. It is the stage we’re in at this second. You need to look within the mirror, have a look at your self and now we have to enhance.”
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 they usually want it shortly.
“it is about character, and now now we have to see how sturdy we’re and the way the workforce sticks collectively and which gamers rise up and lead the workforce,” Ten Hag added. “Bayern Munich is among the favourites to win the Champions League so now we have to be good there and I already defined we’d like character, perception, resilience and dedication, completely.”
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 targets got here on the break, however this was no smash and seize. Brighton had extra possession and extra pictures on course, they usually 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 stress in stoppage time, started to sing “we wish our ball again.”
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 have been few and much between.
It says the whole lot about how issues are going for United that Brighton’s first purpose was scored by certainly one 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 report 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 flawed causes. After all of the off-field troubles, the one statistic that actually issues is that United have misplaced three of their opening 5 video games for the primary time within the Premier League period.