Erik ten Hag’s first Premier League game in charge as Brighton and their excellent manager Graham Potter, deservedly, took the points. They first played United away in 1909 – 113 years later they finally have their first win at Old Trafford. And it was no shock and certainly no ‘smash and grab’.
“Just like Brighton, your city is blue,” cheekily tweeted Brighton’s official account. But there was also plenty of red – mainly red faces of anger and frustration with 1,000 United fans forcing the club’s Mega Store to close as they again protested against the unloved Glazer family ownership.
Pascal Gross scored both of Brighton’s goals but they owed much to even grosser defending from United with the scale of the task for Ten Hag laid brutally bare. A new manager, a fresh start but the same old problems emerged.
There were protests, a po-face and a poor performance. The scowl inevitably belonged to Cristiano Ronaldo and he came on as a second-half substitute, and Manchester United were better with him on the pitch, but mainly because of desperation and because it allowed Christian Eriksen to drop into midfield.
Even so they could not rescue, Ronaldo was named among the substitutes, with Ten Hag claiming he is not fully fit even if the forward would dispute that as he seeks to leave, and there was a huge cheer as he came on after 53 minutes to replace the woeful Fred and while United did score, and piled on the pressure, they could not salvage a draw.
At one stage “Ole” was also sung around the stadium but it was no reference to United’s former manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Instead it was the Brighton fans delighting as their team played keep ball and United chased shadows in the August sunshine.
Brighton lost arguably their two best players in the summer – with Yves Bissouma leaving for Tottenham Hotspur for a fee that could rise to £35 million and Marc Cucurella joining Chelsea for up to £61m – but were superb and thoroughly, emphatically warranted their victor.
United were taken apart for both of Brighton’s first-half goals.