Man United open Erik ten Hag era with home defeat to Brighton and familiar flaws on display

MANCHESTER– The Erik ten Hag era at Manchester United has promised a lot since the former Ajax manager arrived at the end of the 2021/22 season, but the 2022/23 season has started with the same performance and result. Cristiano Ronaldo started the game on the bench and Pascal Gross scored twice in the first half to give Brighton an lead they would keep even after an Alexis Mac Allister own goal in the second half. By the looks of it, Brighton’s 2-1 win is their first-ever at Old Trafford.

– Report: Man United 1-2 Brighton | Premier League table | Next Prem games

Here’s Rob Dawson with the reaction and ratings from today’s game.

GO TO: Player Ratings | Best/worst performance | Highlights and Notable Moments | Quotes after the game | Key Statistics | Upcoming appointments

Fast reaction

The Ten Hag era got off to the worst possible start

And the optimism of a positive summer has already evaporated. No one expected Ten Hag to magically put things right overnight, but there was hope that the opening games against Brighton and Brentford offered a chance to at least get off to a good start. Apparently not.

Two goals from Gross gave the visitors a 2-0 lead at half-time, but it could have been more. United were better after half-time, pulling one back from an Alexis Mac Allister own goal after a questionable Robert Sanchez goalkeeper, but Brighton were still worthy of the three points.

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Sunday’s game is a tough reality check for Ten Hag. His squad is still missing at least two players, with just three weeks to go before the transfer deadline, and is in dire need of a central midfielder – be it Frenkie de Jong or someone else. But even without reinforcements, the Dutchman fielded a team that could have beaten Brighton; Coincidentally, Graham Potter’s side showed that the transition to a new style of football will take time. The problem with United, however, is that they are never more than a game away from a crisis and Ten Hag will learn that very quickly this week.

Ronaldo wanted to wait

After Anthony Martial was sidelined with a hamstring injury, Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to be in the starting XI but Ten Hag kept the 37-year-old on the bench to use Christian Eriksen as a fake No.9. Ten Hag explained it was because Ronaldo missed most of pre-season and only managed 45 minutes in the summer friendlies, but Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez didn’t have much more playing time this summer and were both selected for the starting XI.

After a disastrous first half which saw United booed, it wasn’t long before Ronaldo came on in place of Fred and with the Portuguese striker up front Ten Hag’s side looked much more dangerous.

Ten Hag and Ronaldo already look like a troubled union. There are doubts as to whether Ronaldo can push in the way his manager desires, but United have few options and he’s as close to guaranteed goals as you can get. At a press conference on Friday, Ten Hag hinted that Martial could be available again soon. So it will be interesting to see if Ronaldo stays back on the bench when United travel to Brentford next weekend. It’s always a big challenge to let him go, but especially for a new manager.

Potter furthers his chances in England

It is possible that Gareth Southgate’s time as England manager will come to an end after the World Cup in Qatar and if the FA are looking for a new manager, Potter will be high on their list of candidates.

Potter doesn’t have a great deal of resources at Brighton – in fact he bid farewell to key players Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella this summer – but season after season he produces a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. They have a well-defined style of play and are well trained, making them a respectable opponent for almost any team in the Premier League.

Gross’ second goal here was one of the best you’ll see all season. Brighton worked the ball from their own corner flag with a series of incisive passes and some clever moves that left United’s high pressing in tatters throughout the pitch.

Potter led his team to ninth place last season, but if they keep up the good work, they should aim higher. The downside for Brighton is that any further success could see them lose their manager to England – although that may already be on the cards.

Player Ratings

Manchester United: David de Gea 5, Diogo Dalot 5, Harry Maguire 5, Lisandro Martinez 7, Luke Shaw 5; Fred 5, Scott McTominay 5, Christian Eriksen 6; Marcus Rashford (5), Jadon Sancho (5), Bruno Fernandes (5).
Subtitle: Cristiano Ronaldo (6), Donny Van de Beek (6), Tyrell Malacia (6), Anthony Elanga (6), Alejandro Garnacho (6).

Brighton: Robert Sanchez 7; Joel Veltman 7, Adam Webster 7, Lewis Dunk 7; Solly March 7, Alexis Mac Allister 7, Moises Caicedo 8, Leandro Trossard 7; Adam Lallana 7, Pascal Gross 8, Danny Welbeck 8.
Subtitle: Tariq Lamptey (6), Enock Mwepu (6), Levi Colwill (6), Deniz Undav (6).

Best and worst performers

BEST: Pascal Gross, Brighton – Brighton were fantastic in the first half and Gross was the epitome of their speed of work and tactical efficiency. After good moves – particularly the second – he scored two goals from close range that ripped United apart.

WORST: Fred, ManUnited – United fans arriving at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season didn’t want to see Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield but that’s exactly what they got. Fred was lucky to get away with a mistake early on and was brought on in the second half. He wasn’t the only one who had a bad game, but it was a day when nothing went right.

Highlights and notable moments

It was nice to see United explaining the line-up via Ten Hag on Twitter… too bad it didn’t work out!

In the meantime, this might be the only time Brighton’s Gross is mentioned in the same sentence as Mohamed Salah… but well deserved nonetheless!

After the game: what the managers, players said

“We came into the game on a positive note, we had a good pre-season and being 2-0 down at half-time at Old Trafford was the worst start imaginable. It wasn’t good enough a bit and it’s a bad start for us… Everyone knew the task. We had a bad season last season. We have a new manager who is trying to bring his philosophy to the team but if we don’t get it right look way too open.” – Man United defender Harry Maguire

“It was a great performance and a deserved win. A great start. I thought we had an idea of ​​how to attack and whenever we could we tried to press and press them. We were positive , courageous and the lads gave everything. We have a good group: they are ambitious, they are not perfect but they give everything and as a coach you have a chance.”– Brighton manager Graham Potter

“We can’t ask for much more. Three points away from home against Manchester United. It’s a big win for us today. I’d like to score more goals against other teams, but always against Man United. I don’t know why! We have played really well. The game plan was really good and we stuck to it. We had our chances and were clinical in front of goal.” — Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross

Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Manchester United was 2-11-4 (WLD) last season when they conceded their first goal. The 11 losses were the highest in a season since 2013-14 (12 losses)

  • Brighton have scored more goals in the last 2 games (6) against Manchester United than in the previous 7 games (5).

  • This is the second time in the last three seasons that Manchester United have lost their opening game of the season (2020-21 against Crystal Palace, in technically the second week of the game). From 2015 to 2019 they won 5 consecutive Premier League season opening games.

  • Sunday marked Brighton’s first win at Old Trafford; The club were 0-12-2 (WLD) in their first 14 visits to Old Trafford in all competitions, including 8 straight defeats on Sunday


Manchester United: Ten Hag must put that result behind them as United face two difficult games in the coming weeks, with a trip to Brentford (13 August) followed by the arrival of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on 22 August.

Brighton: Following their trip to Old Trafford, Potter’s side host Newcastle (13 August) before traveling across the south coast to take on West Ham (21 August). Man United open Erik ten Hag era with home defeat to Brighton and familiar flaws on display

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