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5 talking points as Manchester United get back to winning ways against Brighton

Manchester United welcomed Brighton to Old Trafford for the Tuesday night instalment of the Premier League. United, fresh off the back of three consecutive 1-1 draws, were looking to begin finishing the increasingly large number of goal chances that they’ve been creating of late.

The visitors had never won at Old Trafford in any competition, losing 11 and drawing 2 of their 13 visits. In top-flight domestic league meetings, Brighton had only ever managed a solitary point, drawing 1 and losing 7 times (including all 4 in the Premier League).

The visitors have created quite the reputation for themselves, with manager Graham Potter establishing some of the most impressive statistics within his resources. The visitors were unbeaten in their previous 7 league outings, but United have bettered their opponents on each of their Last 5 league encounters.

Anticipating a difficult afternoon with the ever-impressive Yves Bissouma, Ralf Rangnick lined out with the familiar duo of Scott McTominay and Fred in the middle of the park. Anthony Elanga returned to the first team, with the in-form Jadon Sancho on the opposite flank. Portuguese great, Cristiano Ronaldo, would spearhead the line, and the home support would be hoping to see a return to his trademark celebration.

A win would see United move to 4th place, only 4 points off of 3rd place Chelsea. Top four was written off after Saturday’s draw with Southampton, could United throw a spanner in the works?

The opening 5 minutes were largely controlled by the visitors. A combination of several individual errors supplied Brighton with an early opportunity to open the scoring: an effort that was hit directly at the stationary David de Gea.

United would return the favour a couple of moments later: a lapse in communication in the Brighton backline supplying Ronaldo the opportunity to deliver an exquisite back-heal to Sancho, whose attempt really should have found the back of the net.

The next 20 minutes would see Brighton continue their familiar high-press, putting the United defence under pressure on every phase. The continuous pressure, and insistence on a slow build-up, meant ball retention was an issue for the home side. United were restricted to relying on counter-attacking opportunities, which supplied little to no threat to the visitor’s goal.

The half continued in much the same fashion: United unconvincing in possession and Brighton dominating the play. The visitors had two opportunities to break the deadlock before the half-time whistle and forced De Gea into a trademark highlight-reel save.

United held on to their 1st half clean sheet and exited the pitch to a chorus of boos. It was a first-half performance that was similar to 11 strangers playing together for the first time. A disenchanted display, lacking any ability to impose any form of personality and living off of crumbs. A much better 2nd half was required.

Unfortunately for the home support, the 2nd half started as the 1st half ended, with Brighton passing the ball with ease and United struggling to impose themselves in any way. All signs were pointing toward the visitors inevitably breaking the deadlock. Despite this, a lethargic level of composure supplied half an opportunity that Ronaldo took in emphatic fashion. The goal drought was over!

60 seconds later and Lewis Dunk denied Elanga a clear goalscoring opportunity – inevitably confirmed by VAR. Brighton a goal down and a man down and the game on its head. Football, bloody hell!

An hour gone and Old Trafford was in full voice. Utilising the man advantage, United were finally pressing effectively and responding to their loyal 12th man. It was beyond necessary to make this passage count and put the game to bed. Ronaldo came extremely close to his second of the night, but for an instinctive fingertip save from Robert Sanchez.

United would continue to press and really should have added to their lead. Bruno Fernandes would miss from 8 yards, and Ronaldo would head wide when it was easier to score. As United had learnt in recent weeks, one goal is often not enough. The home crowd were craving the killer moment.

The game played out with United largely comfortable, even as Brighton began to throw the sink at a late equaliser. Fernandes sealed the 3 points with one of the last kicks of the night: a quick break and an exquisite dummy providing that all-important victory.

United back into the top four and a sense of optimism can now start generating throughout the fanbase. It’s up to the players to utilise this result and attempt to build a run. The loyal fans deserve nothing less.

5 talking points

– A win is a win. Sometimes they’re perfect and other times they’re hideous. What this side needed, more than anything, was a win. Against an extremely impressive side, these are 3 valuable points and a potential catalyst for momentum.

– The goal drought is over. What was painted as the beginning of the end was merely a blip. Ronaldo broke the deadlock emphatically and should of had a hat-trick. Hopefully our number 7 can build on this.

Dave saves, again! I’m often critical of the Spaniard’s weaknesses, but his shot-stopping is always front and centre. He may often be the supplier of his misfortune, but when he hits those highlight-reel saves, few can match him. He made a couple of crucial saves in the 1st half and was key to keeping the sides level.

– A side that continues to lack identity. Brimming with individual talent but lacking a team identity. Brighton played as one unit and highlighted how far away this side have moved. Still much work to do.

– Inability to play out from the back. Whether it’s De Gea, the defence or the holding midfielders, this side continues to struggle in playing the ball from defence to midfield.

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