February 6, 2023

Erik ten Hag’s era got off to a rough start at Manchester United after the 2-1 loss to Brighton at Old Trafford. Boos off the field After trailing 2-0 in the half due to a brace from Pascal Gross, Manchester United reclaimed an Alexis McAllister goal but never felt the Red Devils were a threat. While Brighton’s side are difficult to open to the season due to the way Graham Potter prepares his team and their discipline, it is important to note that The Seagull finished close to Manchester United compared to Manchester United in the Champions League last season.

Only seven points separate the two teams and despite losing Yves Bisoma and Marc Cucurella over the summer, Potter would like to bridge that gap this season. The win on the opening day at Old Trafford certainly helps achieve that goal. Brighton was the best team from the first kick of the ball and could easily have scored more goals. Almost on the first kick, Leandro Trossard hit Diogo Dalot but his shot was wide of David de Gea’s net. This would foreshadow how the match will go as the Brighton press was something Ten Hag would envy as he wanted a similar setup at United.

Despite posting on social media about his preparation for the match, Cristiano Ronaldo started his day on the bench with only Tin Hag opting to start Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez from new summer additions. Eriksen was handed an interesting role as the center forward was surrounded by Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, but where things started to fall apart was in a familiar spot between midfield, Scott McTominay and Fred. Not putting pressure on Adam Lallana in Brighton’s opener gave Danny Welbeck way too much room to play the search ball across the face of the net that Gross found:

Fred was also beaten for second in Brighton as Luke Shaw and Bruno Fernandes couldn’t close Sully March before de Gea tipped the cross:

The goals wouldn’t be that bad if the duo did more in preparation, but instead lost possession a combined 21 times in midfield. While this was not the highest number on the team as it belonged to Dalot, possession lost importance. When pressed by Moises Caiceido, the duo consistently delivered possession in their half so that Brighton didn’t have much ground to cover going over the counter. Caicedo starred in his two wins while also scoring three high interceptions for the team to make it easier for Brighton’s attack.

Without any help at the hub, Ten Hag couldn’t begin to instill his style into the team. Sancho and Rashford were cut off when they needed the ball to run into defences, while Eriksen did better when Ronaldo entered the game as he was allowed to go deeper into midfield. It will be interesting to watch how Ten Hag corrects because Ronaldo’s introduction didn’t improve the team’s attack much at all.

His transfer saga has been a dark cloud over the team and the fact that he is still a member of the team is a worst case scenario for both parties. Ronaldo played 37 minutes off the bench, only took one shot and an offside was reported in what appeared to be one of his best chances. Despite controlling possession, United couldn’t get the ball rolling as they wanted to play the match at their own pace.

At the back after 60 minutes, Tin Hag threw tactics out the window to throw things forward but this made the team easier to defend for Brighton. The attacks on Ronaldo were to be expected and the goal that the guests were greeted with can be considered a disappointing one. After the ball bounced off Dalot’s back from a corner kick, Robert Sanchez sent the ball to Mac Alister to score an unfortunate own goal.

United have shown very little in terms of positive play the rest of the way, but they have shown how far they have to go if they want to be a Champions League side. Universe Linked to Marko Arnautovic To add to the front line will not solve the problems, but playing James Garner is more powerful. The young midfielder impressed on loan with Nottingham Forest last season, scoring four goals and making eight more in the tournament. He didn’t lose on Sunday but going forward, he could make a better pass picking option than McTominay and Fred. It wasn’t all bad for United as Martinez made his debut well, but it wasn’t enough to keep a clean sheet as Harry Maguire struggled. Tin Hag’s job has never been easy, but he has a big mountain to climb to tip this ship, and after 90 minutes, his fears are likely to grow.

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