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Ten Hag suffers nightmare despite Ronaldo’s introduction



Unfortunately, it was the same old story as Manchester United served up another shocker at Old Trafford to go with the many they produced last season. The first 45 minutes were probably worse than any under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his reign unraveled or Ralf Rangnick.

Behind to a pair of Pascal Gross goals at the break, boos rang around the ground. The idea to start Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes as interchanging false nines did not work. Indeed only when Cristiano Ronaldo came on in the second-half did they look to have any semblance of a threat.

There was only 14 seconds on the clock when Brighton had their first effort with Leandro Trossard firing a shot into the side netting. United did have a good chance after six minutes when Scott McTominay’s blocked shot ricocheted to Fernandes eight yards out but he blasted it over. He was wasteful all half with the ball and started to lose his cool as he often does when calm heads are needed.

In a break in play for an injury, Ten Hag tried desperately to rally his troops as he called them to his technical area. They weren’t listening. Five minutes later on the half hour Brighton were in the lead. Trossard played a perfectly weighted ball into the run of Danny Welbeck who had stormed between United centre-backs Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez.

His ball back across goal went between David De Gea and the retreating McTominay finding Gross at the far post to slide it home. Worse was to follow for United but what a goal it was in the 39th minute from Brighton with the move starting by the corner flag in their own half.

A brilliant backheel by Trossard relieved the pressure with Moises Caicedo picking the ball up and bringing it out. He fed it to Gross and on the ball moved to Adam Lallana and across the pitch to Solly March who let fly with a low shot. De Gea’s saved but the ball broke and Gross reacted quicker than Fred and fired in. The fans were furious.

Brighton were playing like a team that won 4-0 against these opponents at the end of last season and United looked very similar to the one that played in the Amex that day. Graham Potter obviously delighted, United meanwhile needed Harry Potter to magic their way out of this mess. Or perhaps someone with superhuman powers and so eight minutes into the second-half Cristiano Ronaldo was called upon.

Yet it was Brighton who could have been further ahead by then after a foul by Lisandro Martinez on Danny Welbeck in the area. Brighton appealed for a penalty, the referee and VAR said otherwise. Just past the hour Ronaldo set up the chance that should have brought United back into this game. His pass from the right was perfect for an unmarked Marcus Rashford in the middle of the box.

His shot went straight at advancing goalkeeper Robert Sanchez to the dismay of the fans in the Stretford End. He was saved by a flag that signalled Ronaldo had been offside. But replays showed a goal would have stood as Ronaldo was onside.

In the 65th minute Rashford could have made up for that when Fernandes’ cross found him at the far post but he volleyed over. Rashford’s confidence in front of goal was lost last season and it clearly has not come back. In the 67th minute United were back in it but it took a long VAR check to confirm the goal.

A Fernandes corner into a packed six-yard box hit Diogo Dalot on the shoulder and as the ball bounced goalwards Alex MacAllister tried to hook it clear but only managed to whack it into his own net. The check was to see if Dalot could be done for handball but the goal was given. Suddenly United’s tails were and Dalot had a long-range effort to grab an equaliser which Sanchez saved.

Brighton would hold on for a deserved win. For Ten Hag the enormity of the job he has on was laid bare before a packed, unhappy, despondent, Old Trafford.

(The Sun)

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