Manchester United eked out a hard-fought Premier League win over Brighton & Hove Albion thanks to a deflected Ashley Young effort in the second half. José Mourinho named an unchanged starting XI from last weekend’s win over Newcastle, hoping to get back to winning ways on home soil after the midweek upset in Europe.
The Reds started on the front foot, dominating possession while Brighton were content to sit deep. The Seagulls were living up to their reputation for solidity under Chris Hughton however, and United were unable to create any goal-scoring chances of note, despite seeing the lion’s share of the ball.
The rest of the first half played out in similarly frustrating fashion. United could not even be accused of being wasteful, as they were barely threatening the Brighton goal. A lack of cohesion in attack meant that Mourinho’s side could not translate possession into goals, let down time and again by a poor final ball.
It wasn’t until the final minute of the first half that United came close to scoring. After yet another spell of pressure, a header from Lukaku was saved at point blank range by Matt Ryan, and Paul Pogba could only direct the follow-up straight back at the ‘keeper.
Brighton’s stubborn rearguard picked up where they left off after the restart. The visting team were handling United’s blunt-edged probing without too much trouble. Just after the hour mark, Mourinho conceded that a change was needed. The ineffective Juan Mata was withdrawn in place of Zlatan Ibrahimović, who then slotted in just behind Lukaku.
In the 67th minute, United finally broke the deadlock. Some impressive industry from Lukaku earned United a corner, despite the fact that it was the United striker who got the last touch. Brighton were right to feel aggrieved when the opener resulted from the ensuing cross. The corner was only half-cleared, and it came out to Young at the top of the box. His shot took a huge deflection and looped into the top corner to give United the lead.
At the 70 minute mark, Henrikh Mkhitaryan made his retun after being dropped for the last two matches, coming on for Anthony Martial. United were now starting to look stretched, and Brighton fizzed a few dangerous balls across the box. Pogba was now visibly tiring, leaving the team thin in midfield. He would have to last 90 minutes however, as Marcus Rashford picked up a knock with 10 minutes to go. Marouane Fellaini came on in place of the forward in Mourinho’s final change.
Clever play from Ibrahimović created a couple of half chances in the final minutes, but United were mostly concerned with seeing out the win by then. It wasn’t pretty, but it was an important win ahead of a busy week in the league.