Post by Football News on Nov 25, 2017 17:38:42 GMT
Man Utd 1 - 0 Brighton
Lewis Dunk own goal eases Manchester United’s nerves to see off Brighton
Home team scorers Lewis Dunk 66 o.g.
Manchester United did what was required by defeating Brighton & Hove Albion and closing the gap to Manchester City to five points until Sunday afternoon at least.
The uneven form of José Mourinho’s side was again evident yet all that matters as they play with catch up with City is to put some pressure on the Premier League leaders.
Pep Guardiola’s side are at Huddersfield Town in the 4pm kick-off and though rated as firm favourites to take three points, United’s winner deflected in off Brighton defender Lewis Dunk gives them something to ponder.
Mourinho made seven changes, as only Chris Smalling, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku surviving from Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Basel while Chris Hughton retained 10 of the Brighton XI that drew 2-2 with Stoke City on Monday, Solly March coming in for José Izquierdo.
This chance to apply pressure on City began with Lukaku making a hash of a chance to test Mathew Ryan, the Brighton goalkeeper. The No9 had been slick in swapping passes with Martial but there was nothing smooth in the way a 25-yard attempt was ballooned over.
For Brighton Gaëtan Bong made an equally bad error when trying to flip the ball to March over Antonio Valencia near goal. He managed only to give possession to United’s captain who found Paul Pogba and the midfielder should have done better with his delivery into the area.
After the 2-1 loss at Huddersfield Town last month Mourinho complained of his players’ attitude. On Saturday there was a suggestion of a similar issue. Bruno Saltor, the visiting captain, was able to cut through United’s rearguard down the right too easy before finding Pascal Gross. His shot went saved by David de Gea but United continued to slumber. The next Brighton break came along this same flank. When March looked up he should have found a team-mate. Instead Juan Mata cleared and left Hughton a frustrated figure in the technical area.
The opening half was a similar display to the Basel loss; United dominating but unable to score Instead, once more, Bruno launched a Brighton attack and when the ball came to Davy Pröpper Mourinho’s side were scrambling again to clear.
Valencia did manage to stand one cross up for Lukaku to head but his header to Ryan’s right. Earlier Mourinho had been engaged in words with the fourth official. When Valencia was adjudged to have fouled when claiming the ball cleanly there may have been more from the United manager if Gross’s subsequent free-kick had found the jumping Glenn Murray’s head near the penalty spot.
United ended the period with a Lukaku point-blank header being smothered near the line and Pogba left stricken from the same incident. But, thankfully for the home team, he re-entered the fray.
The second half began with Smalling being sold a dummy that left him in a differing postcode but Gross’s ball in disappointed. Moments later, when Marcus Rashford attempted a similar trick on Bong, he ran into the left-back and fell to the floor.
For United to prosper Pogba needed to become more of a factor as he was in the 4-1 win over Newcastle United the previous weekend. Instead it was the so-far maligned Victor Lindelöf who fired up United and the home crowd with a sliding tackle on Gross. It left the No11 prone and the travelling support booing as those in red shirts played on but suddenly Old Trafford had voice and atmosphere.
This ratcheted up further when Mourinho took off the anonymous Mata for Zlatan Ibrahimovic with 62 minutes gone. Yet while it remained goalless United were in danger of a similar late loss to that suffered in Switzerland.
Now, though, came Ashley Young’s intervention. A Rashford corner came to the left-back, he shimmied, then left fly and the ball went in off the unfortunate Dunk.
Whether Lukaku got the final touch for the corner may have been of some dispute but United hardly cared. What they had to do now was protect the lead. While a Brighton breakaway featuring Dunk need a last-gasp intervention from the United defence, by the close this first top-flight meeting between the teams in 34 years ended as United would wish.
But there may be concern from Mourinho that the early season fluidity and barrage of goals has tapered off. The sole strike here took the tally to seven in the last six league outings, a paltry return following a prolific start of 21 in the opening seven.