Erik ten Hag’s official start to life as Manchester United manager got off to a fairly rocky start on Sunday afternoon.
With renewed hope around Old Trafford, the visiting Brighton brought the Red Devils crashing back down to earth with a stunning first-half performance.
Two silky moves from the Seagulls saw Pascal Gross grab a double as United struggled to match their intensity. The Albion themselves lost Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella during the transfer window but were comfortably the better side for the first hour on Sunday.
And then it came. In the 53rd minute, Ten Hag turned to Cristiano Ronaldo, who entered off the bench to hopeful applause smattered with a not insignificant amount of boos.
His introduction didn’t bring an immediate shift in momentum, however, with United failing to carve out clear cut opportunities. Brighton’s play in midfield, meanwhile, had the visiting supporters singing ‘ole’ with every completed pass.
Those cheers were quashed somewhat as United upped the intensity. Marcus Rashford fired over on the volley before Christian Eriksen drew a save from Robert Sanchez, but the Seagulls’ resistance was eventually broken by a farcical goal.
Sanchez was caught scrambling at a corner and the loose ball could have been cleared by Alexis Mac Allister, but was instead shoved back towards his own goal by Sanchez to make it 2-1, the goal eventually cleared after a long VAR referral.
With that goal came a sustained period of United pressure as they searched for an equaliser, though with 15 minutes left to play Ronaldo still hadn’t had a shot at goal.
Further changes were sought, with the much maligned Scott McTominay giving way to Donny van de Beek.
Further pressure went unrewarded, with Lisandro Martinez having an effort well blocked by Lewis Dunk.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes, Brighton wasted a considerable chunk of injury time keeping the ball in the corner, holding United at a secure arm’s length.
No further opportunity came for Ten Hag and United, with Graham Potter leading the Albion to their first ever victory at Old Trafford and a second consecutive win over the Red Devils after last season’s 4-0 thumping.