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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Misery for Mourinho as uninspired Man United lose at Brighton

Defensive mistakes consign United to their second loss to Chris Hughton's side in four months

A wretched Manchester United performance saw Brighton & Hove Albion win their first game of the season as they triumphed 3-2 on Sunday.

That Brighton managed all the goals after losing their captain Lewis Dunk to injury on 19 minutes made it even more damning on a woeful afternoon for Jose Mourinho’s side.

An injury to Alexis Sanchez saw Anthony Martial given a chance to re-establish himself back in the side, but he failed to take his chance.

The Frenchman was unable to make an impact and left the field after an hour without any acknowledgement from Mourinho.

United lacked leadership across the pitch with captain Paul Pogba a shadow of the player who had impressed the previous week in the win over Leicester City.

The side were lacking sharpness and cohesion too in an affront to the fans from Manchester who had made a six hour journey south.

Brighton bought 16 new players in the close season after staying up in England’s top division for the first time in 34 years, but coach Chris Hughton was vindicated as he largely stuck with the team which kept them up.

If you believe all the transfer stories in the summer, United were linked with 160 new players and signed three of them. Only one of that trio, Fred, started in the third game between the sides in five months.

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The visitors never settled and Anthony Knockaert took advantage of poor communication in United defence after 22 minutes to shoot wide.

Brighton did not have to wait long for their next chance, just two minutes when local boy Solly March crossed from the left for Glenn Murray, who is a 34-year-old United fan.

Murray flicked the ball over past David de Gea with his marker Victor Lindelof, so impressive in the World Cup finals for Sweden, nowhere near the man he was supposed to be marking.

Brighton doubled their lead moments later. Shane Duffy finishing after the ball fell to him following a corner that was needlessly conceded by a sluggish Eric Bailly.

As the sun tried to come out on an otherwise dank, drizzly day, United were stunned and Mourinho sent three of his substitutes out to warm up.

His side narrowed the deficit in the 33rd minute when Luke Shaw crossed for Romelu Lukaku to head past Matthew Ryan for his first goal of the season.

The 3,000 travelling fans behind that goal hoped it would start a comeback. It didn’t.

Bailly, again, was at fault for Brighton's third goal two minutes before half time as he went to tackle Pascal Gross who had taken a poor touch in a Brighton attack.

Bailly’s lunge saw referee Kevin Friend point immediately to the penalty spot and Gross, who scored the winner which kept his side up when the teams met in May, struck the ball down the middle of the net.

Mourinho wanted a central defender in the close season and on the first half evidence at Brighton, it was clear why, yet he also sanctioned the £30 million (Dh140.4m) signings of Bailly and Lindelof.

Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata replaced by Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford at half time, but the forwards charged with plugging a porous midfield and defence could do little.

Towards the end of the game, United were reduced to hitting long balls forward to Lukaku and substitute Marouanne Fellaini, with minimum effect bar a 75th minute Pogba shot that was saved by Ryan.

With Manchester City winning 6-1, it completed it a gloomy Sunday for United, yet an organised, hard working, hard pressing Brighton side must be credited for a second successive home win against Mourinho’s men - who didn’t look like they had the stomach for a fightback.

‘Can we play you every week,’ sang the Brighton fans.

It was that bad for United and not even a 94th-minute penalty converted by Pogba after Duffy went into Fellaini could change it.

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