Strikes from Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy gave the hosts a deserving 2-0 lead before Romelu Lukaku pulled one back for the away side. However, a rash challenge from Eric Bailly led to Pascal Gross restoring Brighton’s two-goal advantage in the first half.
Pogba halved the deficit from the spot when Marouane Fellaini was brought down in injury time, but United’s performance reeked of a team completely lacking in direction.
SAME CITY, POLES APART
It won’t have helped Jose Mourinho that Premier League audiences were still catching their breath after the entertainment Manchester City provided against Huddersfield when his side took to the pitch at Brighton and produced a display which was in complete contrast.
City were fluid, completely in sync and simply irresistible as they put six goals past their hapless visitors. United on the other hand were ponderous on the ball, all over the place at the back and couldn’t have been more disjointed if they tried.
When the Citizens are in possession, the man on the ball has several options for short passes. You could connect the surrounding blue shirts and draw a rhombus to denote the plethora of passing avenues he has to chose from. United, however, are so rigid in their structure, that players are far too spaced out, making it difficult to keep the ball moving, let alone string together a series of quick passes.
While Pep Guardiola has been all smiles at the start of the campaign, Mourinho seems to sport a perpetual scowl. The body language on the pitch says a lot about the moods in the two camps as well. Paul Pogba retained the captain’s armband but his performance was hardly worthy of it during a time when his relationship with the manager has been strained. Anthony Martial, also lambasted by Mourinho in pre-season, didn’t look like he wanted to play for the man in the dugout.
Even with Liverpool strengthening over the summer, few would bet on them toppling City this season. But many more would now put United outside of the top four, come the end of the season.
With the Red Devils toiling against modest opposition, who would blame them? Brighton couldn’t muster a single shot on target away to Watford in the opening week, yet scored three past David De Gea.
During the closing stages at the Amex Stadium, chants of “just like Brighton, your city is blue” resonated around the arena. It has to be said, not one player in a red shirt showed anything to the contrary.
UNITED IN REGRESSION
After the consistent highs and glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson, the depths of despair to which United sunk with his successor David Moyes was a reality check. The accomplished Louis van Gaal came in and steadied the ship, slowly improving performances before the team seemed to hit a wall and began to regress.
Mourinho to his credit, showed signs of promise during spells of his first two seasons but as the second began to draw to a close, the style of play deteriorated. As evidenced by their latest display, United don’t only seem to be getting worse.
There’s no identity to the team and their approach is only distinguishable when facing tough opposition as they engineer ways to counter their strategies. Mourinho needs to take stock of how he operates because at the moment, like his predecessor, he is starting to take United backwards.
It all makes sense now. While United fans were crying out for signings in attack over the summer, the club appeared to be consumed with their pursuits of several high-profile centre-backs. Of course, none came to fruition but the intention to sign a defender despite boasting several within their ranks has now come into clarity.
Bailly has largely been impressive for United and seemingly only held back by injuries, while Victor Lindelof looked very good for Sweden at the World Cup.
However, Mourinho must’ve seen things in training that we didn’t. They certainly came to the fore at Brighton.
The pair were disastrous at the back with the Ivorian proving particularly disappointing as he made several rash challenges, including one that conceded a penalty at a crucial juncture in the contest.
Having said that, Mourinho’s tactics are doing them no favours. Even against Brighton, the team seems to sit off and invite the opposition into their defensive third. It’s no wonder the defensive comes under increasing pressure.
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