Terrible start for Ten Hag as Gross fire Brighton to win at Manchester United – The Guardian

This was the worst of possible beginnings for Manchester United under Erik ten Hag. All the optimism of pre-season and a new manager turned sour when Old Trafford proved a theater of the Dutchman’s worst nightmares.

Employed on a ticket of “proactive” (his word) pressing football the exact opposite was shown until a rally that drew a farcical consolation but proved too late when it came in the closing 22 minutes.

Brighton gave the Dutchman an uncompromising welcome to the Premier League. Leandro Trossard, Danny Welbeck and Pascal Gross were their stars in an impressive visit of Graham Potter’s men. At any moment it looked like they would win, so Ten Hag and his players will have to wake up for next weekend’s visit to Brentford before hosting Liverpool in the next home fixture.

Describing the task ahead of him later as “a hell of a job” Ten Hag succinctly summed up a decline that began nine years ago when Sir Alex Ferguson left.

The 52-year-old’s side could have scored as early as the sixth minute. Jadon Sancho moved inside and poked the ball to Scott McTominay, who would be outmuscled all afternoon in his place on the right wing. He found Bruno Fernandes but the Portuguese flared from a few meters out.

Before that, 15 seconds in, Diogo Dalot hesitated, allowing Trossard to let fly. He hit the side netting but moments after Fernandes’ miss the Brighton No 11 received the ball in a similar area and once again United escaped.

Before this opening protests by United fans led to the closure of the club shop as a crowd gathered in front of the megastore: this was noticed by Avram Glazer, a co-owner making a rare visit and who watched from the directors. a box For his inaugural Premier League XI, Ten Hag solved the problem of Anthony Martial’s enforced absence with a hamstring injury by selecting Christian Eriksen at false 9, but the ploy did not work.

Considering that Ten Hag drilled his charges to close from the first day, the loose marking will rage: one Brighton attack had Trossard faltering in a crowded area before carving the ball to Moisés Caicedo with Lisandro Martínez, as Eriksen making his Premier League debut for. Huddled, half asleep. When, later, Alexis Mac Allister unleashed a shot at goal Eriksen pressed but that opening happened because Trossard was again allowed room down to cross.

Erik ten Hag shows his frustration during Manchester United's opening defeat
Erik ten Hag shows his frustration during Manchester United’s opening defeat. Photo: Peter Powell/EPA

He had a pivotal role in Brighton’s opener which, too, derived from United’s leak. McTominay rise was the first mistake when he encountered a Brighton sandwich. From here the ball was threaded by Trossard to the effervescent Welbeck and as he tapped over a cross Gross, unmarked, rolled in. Cut to Ten Hag shaking his head and Cristiano Ronaldo, on the bench, raising his arms: either in contempt or encouragement. .

Later, however, more despair for those in red. From along Brighton’s left Trossard fed Caicedo. He picked off a passive Eriksen and the ball was swept up in a sequence featuring Gross, Adam Lallana and Solly March. The latter shot at goal, David de Gea palmed out and Gross, following, doubled his tally and the lead, Fred the latest United spectator.

When the interval arrived Ten Hag, of course, had short words prepared. If so the Dutch still had to watch McTominay enter another confusion and Martínez lose Welbeck, whose header should have made it 3-0.

The name missing from the starting lineup was Ronaldo. The manager stated that only playing 45 minutes of last Sunday’s friendly with Rayo Vallecano plus “10 days” of training was behind him that he named the free forward as a substitute.

Seven minutes into the second half, the manager turned to the man 15 years his junior, Fred making way as Ronaldo went to his favored No.9 spot and Eriksen moved back to operate as a deep-lying tug-of-war. Martínez endured a minor shock and that would have been significant but for Paul Tierney’s gentleness when the centre-back pushed Welbeck in the area. A penalty appeared but Martínez escaped when the referee ruled that no foul was done.

Marcus Rashford was also poor in an unwanted echo of last season. One regulation check pushed the ball out and he missed two golden opportunities from close range. The first had Ronaldo flagged – wrongly – for offside, so VAR would allow it.

It was a positive moment when United finally struck. A scramble at a corner had the ball hitting Dalot – possibly on the arm – with Harry Maguire also involved and possibly offside before it went in for Mac Allister: VAR ruled this fair and United had a lifeline. As the home crowd roared their men on, a curling Dalot shot was fumbled by Brighton keeper Robert Sánchez as, by now, Brighton had to hang on.

When Donny van de Beek replaced McTominay he passed a note, presumably from Ten Hag, to Maguire. Whatever it said didn’t work as Brighton, at the final whistle, was a complete value for the win. For United this may be yet another long season.

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