Manchester United 1-2 Brighton: Pascal Gross double hands Erik ten Hag defeat on Premier League debut
Match report and highlights as Brighton win 2-1 at Man Utd; Pascal Gross scores twice before half-time; Alexis Mac Allister’s own goal gave the hosts hope of a comeback; Erik ten Hag suffers defeat in his first Premier League game in charge of United
Pascal Gross’ first-half double gave Brighton a surprise 2-1 win at Manchester United as Erik ten Hag’s reign got off to the worst possible start.
The unmarked Brighton midfielder found himself in the right place, at the right time, to tap the visitors into a 2-0 lead with two goals in nine minutes in the Old Trafford sunshine, as the hosts – with Cristiano Ronaldo starting on the bench – were booed off at half-time by their own fans.
However, Alexis Mac Allister’s scrappy own goal midway through the second period, awarded after a lengthy Video Assistant Referee [VAR] check for both handball and offside, briefly breathed new life into the hosts and their supporters.
But United were unable to find an equaliser and as a result, Ten Hag suffered defeat in his first Premier League encounter, while Brighton secured a first-ever win at Old Trafford.
How Brighton ruined Ten Hag’s Man Utd bow
Optimism was high in the stands as United made their way out on to the pitch to begin another season in search of the Premier League title, especially with a new man at the helm, but that lasted all of half an hour.
The Dutchman, who even changed the dugouts at Old Trafford in a bid to bring back the glory days, has spoken of the challenges facing him, but this disjointed performance will have really brought that home to everyone.
After a bright start, including a bad miss by Bruno Fernandes, who swept a shot high over the bar from an unmarked position on the penalty spot having been set up by Scott McTominay, United imploded in the lead-up to half-time.
The visitors, playing more like Ten Hag’s former side Ajax than his current one in the first period, cut their opponents open to take the lead as the impressive Leandro Trossard picked out Danny Welbeck’s run in the box.
And the former Arsenal forward’s pull back from the left byline was touched home by an unmarked Gross at the far post to leave Old Trafford stunned, but worse was to follow six minutes before the interval after another well-worked Brighton goal cut United’s defence open.
Moises Caicedo, another to catch the eye, Gross, Adam Lallana and Solly March were all involved, before the latter’s low driven cross was only parried by David de Gea straight to that man Gross, who again side-footed into an empty net.
It could have been worse for the home team, with McTominay fortunate to only be booked after his sliding tackle caught Caicedo high on his ankle midway through the first half, with VAR deciding to give the Scotland midfielder the benefit of the doubt.
All eyes were on Ronaldo at the interval and it took Ten Hag little time to bring the Portugal forward on as United went to a flat back four, although it was Brighton who could – and should – have scored the next goal in the contest.
However, the VAR somehow decided new United centre-back Lisandro Martinez had not pushed Welbeck over in the box and soon the hosts were back in the game as the previously secure Robert Sanchez flapped at a corner, with Mac Allister then bundling the ball into his own net after a goalmouth scramble.
The VAR checked the goal after a possible handball by Diogo Dalot and a potential offside against Harry Maguire, but it stood as United were left with a quarter of the game to turn it around.
However, despite oodles of possession and a fervent home crowd willing them on, the match petered out as Brighton comfortably wound down the clock to leave Ten Hag with much to ponder after just one game at the helm.
Brighton finally break their Old Trafford duck – Opta stats
Brighton registered their first ever away win over Manchester United, having drawn two and lost 12 of their previous 14 visits before today.
Manchester United have now lost their opening Premier League match in two of the last three seasons, having started with a win in five consecutive seasons between 2015-16 and 2019-20 before this.
Erik ten Hag is the first Manchester United manager to lose his first Premier League game in charge since Louis van Gaal in August 2014 against Swansea City.