Manchester United failed to turn up for their Premier League match away to Brighton & Hove Albion, and suffered a deserved 1-0 loss. Pascal Gross got the game’s only goal, and while United attacked relentlessly in the late stages of the match, it was too little, too late.
José Mourinho rang the changes for United’s visit to the Seagulls, some of them enforced by injury, others for the purpose of giving some fringe players a chance to force their way into the FA Cup final team. Instead of being inspired by players hoping to impress the manager, however, the Reds turned in a listless, uninspiring performance.
The match started positively for the visitors, as the traveling fans thought their team had taken the lead in just the 3rd minute. Marcus Rashford, starting upfront in place of the injured Romelu Lukaku, won a free kick on the edge of the area. Rashford took charge of the delivery himself and whipped a dangerous ball into the box that Marouane Fellaini poked into the net. Unfortunately for United, the Belgian was offside.
From there, United spent the rest of the first half barely in second gear. The midfield trio of Fellaini, Paul Pogba, and Nemanja Matić seemed to be having a personal contest of which of them could be sloppiest in possession. In attack, Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Juan Mata had little fluency amongst them, and things were no better in defense. For the umpteenth time this season, only David De Gea’s brilliance kept out the opposition attack - twice in the first half the Spaniard was forced to make sharp saves.
Brighton were playing like a team desperate for points, and United were playing like a team desperate for the league season to be over. Although the Reds started the second half with somewhat more intent, it was Brighton who got the deserved opening goal.
In the 56th minute, Pascal Gross got on the end of a cross and directed his powerful header goalwards. Marcos Rojo did well to apparently clear the ball off the line, but the goal-line technology system correctly indicated that the ball had crossed the line by just inches, putting the home side in the lead.
Mourinho made an adjustment in the 69th minute, sending on Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard in place of Matteo Darmian and the ineffective Fellaini. The change sent skipper Ashley Young to right-back and added an extra body in attack. United were now enjoying more of the ball, but still lacked a cutting edge. The manager’s final roll of the tactical dice came in the form of “Manager’s Player of the Year” Scott McTominay being introduced in place of Rojo.
United poured forward late on, and for not the first time this year, most of us watching were left to wonder why this team fails to show the same urgency when scores are level as it does after going behind. This time though, there was to be no late reprieve.