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Staff Takeaways: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Manchester United

Takeaways from another poor road performance...

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Chris - Attack needs to gain confidence and improve end product

After a long season of heavily relying on Marcus Rashford to score goals, Manchester United need their other forwards to step up.

United could’ve, and should’ve, been up 1-0 within two minutes after Antony made a great run between the lines to receive the ball, but the Brazilian just missed the target with his shot.

It was the first time that I could recall Antony making that sort of run to get in behind the back line and go one-on-one with the keeper, as he typically tends to stay wide to receive the ball and cut inside, and I thought it was a good sign that we’d see more of that with improved finishing for the rest of the game.

Sadly, I was mistaken, as United only had five shots on goal on 16 attempts, and the end product was rather poor.

A trend we’ve seen throughout the season is that the wingers have been too timid to take defenders on and opt for a safer option, typically a back pass to a midfielder. We saw that again against Bournemouth, with a prime example being Antony’s back pass to Bruno Fernandes in the first half. Rashford megged a player and played the ball to the winger on the counter, but instead of taking on the defender and cutting in on his left for or even playing Rashford through as he continued his run in the box, Antony played the ball back to Bruno, but it resulted in a wasted opportunity.

We’ve all seen how good Antony was at Ajax and we know how talented he is, but we’re still really waiting for him to show us the confidence to take defenders on consistently with dazzling footwork.

The same timidity has been seen in Jadon Sancho for the majority of the season, and he still looks shades of the player we saw at Borussia Dortmund—albeit definitely improved from last season. His cameo didn’t have an impact on the game.

Alejandro Garnacho has certainly been missed as an option on the wings, as we’ve seen time and time again his eagerness to beat defenders and get into the box to score or create chances for teammates. However, his absence needs to be a motivating factor for other players to step up.

With the likes of Facundo Pellistri on the bench who has proven he isn’t afraid to take defenders on with his quick pace and send balls into the box, I would’ve liked to see what he could’ve done if he was brought into the game.

Nevertheless, with just a few matchdays remaining in the Premier League and the race for top four coming down to the wire, it’s more important now than ever for our attack to finish the season strong and on a high note.

Colin - Frustration and fatigue building as old problems persist

Manchester United’s away record this season is abysmal.

Much was made of it after the match on Thursday, and rightfully so, as United once again failed to capitalize on chances or establish any semblance of control in a match against a quality host.

Apart from the penalty, Brighton and United had pretty similar xG, and 0-0 would have been a fair result before Luke Shaw’s inexplicable handball. Both sides created chances early on in a highly entertaining end-to-end first half, but as we’ve seen before the intensity from United faded in the second half as the Seagulls began to take more of the ball and quickly snuffed out attacks. The shift of Moises Caicedo defensively onto Marcus Rashford worked out well, and once again Anthony Martial struggled to stay involved throughout the game.

United’s best looks at goal came from Antony, who incidentally missed the target on both attempts. The runs and positioning were both there again, but this time the lack of end product proved costly.

Chris is spot on about the lack of production up front, and the overreliance on Rashford to score goals has underlined the need for more quality when it comes to forward options. What really stood out on the night as well was United’s failure to press. Brighton are excellent at playing out from the back, and that was on display again.

In the end it’s a frustrating result, and one that many feared could happen because of how good Brighton are. Perhaps not as bad as some of us imagined, but still worrying with Liverpool catching fire in a late push for top four. The same problems keep popping up in attack and midfield, exacerbated by a makeshift defensive line and tired legs. United looked tired and out of ideas up front despite another good performance from Bruno Fernandes. It impacted the midfield, who were already struggling for control, and the lack of goals made the margin for error razor thin at the end.