Manchester United have had a turbulent start to the new campaign, often following up good results and performances with disappointing ones, but the 3-1 victory over Brighton saw the Red Devils take a big chance to build momentum.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed the result as United’s “best performance of the season”. It was much improved from United compared to their last league outing against Bournemouth. The defeat at the Vitality stadium was seen as a step backwards after improved results and performances in the weeks leading up the encounter on the South coast. Now the 1-0 loss will be seen merely as a blip after Ole’s men won five of their last seven matches in all competitions.
Prior to the Brighton game however, only one of those wins had come in the Premier League and fans were eager for United to close the gap on the top four after finding themselves in 14th position before kick-off. The three points gained lifts Solskjaer’s side up to seventh in the table, albeit still some nine points adrift of City in the last Champions League spot.
United have been producing some scintillating stuff of late with wins against Norwich, Partizan Belgrade, and now Brighton being very easy on the eye. The pace and tricky of attacking trio Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Dan James has got the Stretford End faithful excited again. The score line flattered Brighton as wasteful finishing kept the result respectable for the Seagulls. The return of Martial after a two-month injury lay-off has been crucial to the upturn of results and displays. The former Monaco striker adds pace, a killer instinct and goal threat to the forward line and also shares a fruitful relationship with Rashford who has now scored six goals in the last seven matches.
Another player who has impressed recently is Brazilian midfielder, Fred. The 26-year-old has struggled for form since making his move from Shakhtar Donetsk back in 2018 but he has now started five successive league games for the first time in his United career. He was dominant, energetic and efficient against Brighton; barely putting a foot wrong and is beginning to excel in Paul Pogba’s extended absence. Whether Fred can be the answer to United’s long-standing midfield problems remains to be seen, but he is beginning to pose that question and gives Solskjaer an option in the centre of the park that was previously absent.
With Scott McTominay leaving the pitch injured at the weekend and Paul Pogba not expected to be back for several weeks, Fred could be set to play an important role for some time yet.
A section of supporters have been mildly frustrated with the lack of Premier league opportunities for the clubs talented youngsters so far this season, especially when the results were also below expectations. Ashley Young’s suspension and Luke Shaw’s injury gave 19-year-old Brandon Williams the chance to impress from the start and he didn’t disappoint. The academy graduate has already featured in the Europa League and Carabao Cup this year, but this was his most memorable display yet.
United fans like a fiery character such as Roy Keane or Wayne Rooney and Williams appears to be similar. The left-back contributed to United’s youngest starting XI of the season; the side had an average age of 23 years and 350 days against Brighton which was the youngest since a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in May 2017.
It is a sign of the turn around in personal that Ole is trying to achieve and also perhaps an explanation as to United’s lack of consistency. The last break for international fixtures of the year has come at a bad time for United who will be looking to build on their impressive run and continue their climb up the table. United fans will be hoping the current good form is here to stay and that this is the start of a prolonged recovery.