Another loss to a team in the top half of the Premier League brought Erik ten Hag’s problems at Man United to light.
Luke Shaw raised his hand after a night in which he had not misstepped.
The Manchester United players at least avoided singing “you’re not fit to wear the shirt,” but they were unable to prevent another loss at Brighton.
Only four starters were present for the 4-0 thrashing at the Amex in May for United, who have a new manager and new players. In spite of 362 days having passed since the lowest point of the previous season, Brighton still has a curse on United.
With the top 12 teams in the Premier League, they have only managed one victory in 11 games, losing eight of them. This was one of United’s most frustrating losses because they were down by two goals in the 99th minute of stoppage time, when they were supposed to win. When the fourth official blew for five more minutes, Brighton was the only team committed to winning.
Currently, United’s Premier League campaign is in danger of failing to finish. United only have one game remaining, which will be played in the final week of the season, and Liverpool are four points ahead and breathing down their necks.
The referee missed the ball that grazed Shaw’s hand from a corner, but Shaw knew the result as soon as Andre Marriner got close to the monitor. It was equally obvious that David de Gea would lose from 12 yards. In the FA Cup semi-final shootout last month, Alexis Mac Allister was the first to score.
With only three victories in three months in 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, United have yet to win in front of a crowd at the Amex Stadium. This wasn’t a second supine surrender at a place where they’d given up seven goals in their previous two defeats, but they still gave up any power they had.
The midfield of United was once again controlled by Moises Caicedo, and Erik ten Hag’s game-planning once more went wrong. In January 2021, United gave up on Caicedo and dropped the ball. The Ecuadorian was lively once more.
Christian Eriksen was not used, Ten Hag made few attempts to stem Brighton’s growing dominance, and in the ensuing scramble after Shaw’s handball, Brighton had three chances to score in the span of ten seconds.
It would have been advantageous to win at Brighton. Two times, the second with added time, Roberto de Zerbi threw a water bottle. The sponsors chose Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele as the game’s MVP despite his perception of a lost opportunity.
That harms Brighton while complimenting United. De Gea’s denials of Kaoru Mitoma and Mac Allister overshadowed Steele’s simple stops. Another penalty that sailed past De Gea will be more recalled than his performance.
Another scoreless game would have been a disgrace because this one was more exciting than the nerve-wracking FA Cup semifinal 11 days prior. Once more, a spotkick decided the outcome.
The aggressiveness in the game was often spikier on the sidelines. Despite receiving eight cautions, nobody was sent off. Ten Hag was unusually outspoken, which occasionally irritated De Zerbi, his opponent.
The fourth official was occasionally amused by Ten Hag’s rage, which caused him to start laughing. De Zerbi implied that he had received punishment for comparable outbursts. Adam Lallana exchanged words invectively with the United manager while not even on the Brighton bench.
United might have broken their Brighton curse in the second minute had Antony not hit the ball against the post. Steele had a chance thanks to the shots that Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial chose. Similar concerns continue to be raised on the same field where the pair fired blanks and later engaged in some friendly fire from Jose Mourinho five years ago.
When Weghorst entered the game in the 84th minute, the United fans chanted, “If Weghorst scores, we’re on the pitch”. Weghorst now has two goals in 26 games.
An elite center forward who can hold onto the ball would be revolutionary. Bruno Fernandes roamed to open up new angles and his vertical passes frequently eluded the dominating Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster, but Rashford, who frequently darted infield, failed to kill the ball.
At the start of the second half, Rashford and Martial switched spots, and within five minutes, Ten Hag expressed displeasure with the former’s placement. Exasperatedly slapping his thighs, Ten Hag chastised the sluggish Martial for appearing to lack urgency in his pressing.
Later, Ten Hag cursed a Martial error. As he was replaced by Weghorst, Martial’s absence of a 90-minute Premier League appearance was extended.
Martial and De Gea, who had both worn gloves, had made it through United’s first two trips to Falmer in 2018. In temperatures of 13 degrees and a sky that was bluer than the Brighton crest for the duration of the first half, Martial was the only outfield player wearing additional layers.
The phlegmatic Ten Hag initially contrasted sharply with the fiery De Zerbi. After Antony’s miss, Ten Hag turned and shook his head disapprovingly. His hands were still in his pockets.
When Pervis Estupián stepped on Rashford, Ten Hag lost it and yelled at the linesman, the fourth official, and then the referee. Ten Hag had apparently picked up some of De Zerbi and Andrea Maldera’s antics. After Casemiro was carded and the two shook hands, Weghorst said a few harsh words to Maldera.
In the 64th minute, Billy Gilmour escaped a clear yellow card, prompting Ten Hag to ask, “What is this? F–g hell”. When the booked Casemiro lunged at Caicedo a minute later, De Zerbi was allowed to ask a comparable question. When Antony purposefully hacked Mac Allister, those flashpoints served as the catalyst for fights both on the field and near the sidelines. The soundtrack of boos soon became the Brazilian’s addiction. The United crest was patted in response by the Brazilian.
In one-on-one situations, De Gea still has an aura despite his limitations with the ball at his feet, during set pieces, and outside the penalty area. In the third minute, Mitoma struck the ball directly in De Gea’s face. Jack Butland took off his tracksuit top and bottoms in anticipation of replacing De Gea for his United debut, but he quickly put them back on.
A Brighton penalty was stopped by Butland last season.