Pascal Grosz’s first-half goal earned Brighton a 2-1 win at Manchester United as Erik ten Haag’s reign got off to a disastrous start.
The unmarked Brighton midfielder found himself in the right place, at the right time, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the Manchester sun with two goals in nine minutes, as the hosts – with Cristiano Ronaldo starting on the bench – were there. They were booed by their fans after the break.
However, Alexis McAllister’s goal midway through the second period was disallowed after a lengthy video assistant referee. [VAR] For both handball and off the field, it briefly breathed new life into the organizers and their supporters.
But United were unable to find an equaliser, resulting in a 10-man defeat in their first Premier League game, while Brighton recorded their first win at Old Trafford.
Man United: De Gea (6), Dalot (6), Maguire (6), Martinez (5), Shaw (6), Fred (6), McTominay (6), Eriksen (7), Fernandez (6), Sancho (6) Rashford. (6)
Subscribers Ronaldo (7), Malacia (6), Van de Beek (6), Elanga (6), Garnacho (6)
Brighton: Sanchez (6), Veltman (6), Dunk (8), Webster (6), March (7), Lallana (7), Caicedo (8), Trossard (8), Gross (9), McAllister (7). Welbeck (8)
Subscribers Lamptey (6), Colwill (6), Mwepu (6), Undav (6).
Player of the game: Pascal Gross
How Brighton’s Ten Hag Spoiled Man United’s Arrows
Optimism was high in the stands as United took to the field to begin another season as champions, especially with a new man at the helm, but that took half an hour.
The Dutchman, who even changed his dugouts at Old Trafford to relive the glory days, spoke of the challenges he faced, but this disjointed performance really brought that home to everyone.
United took the lead by half-time after Scott McTominay’s penalty from the penalty spot, which Bruno Fernandes failed to beat badly.
The visitors, playing more like ten-Hag ex-Ajax than he did in the first season, gave their opponents the lead as the impressive Leandro Trossard picked out Danny Welbeck’s run into the box.
And the former Arsenal forward’s volley from the left was tapped in at the far post by an unmarked Gros to leave Old Trafford, but worse was to follow up with six minutes left after a well-worked Brighton goal opened up the United defence.
Cristiano Ronaldo is on the bench for Manchester United. Ronaldo has asked to leave United and has just 45 minutes of game action under his belt since pre-season as family reasons kept him out of the club’s summer tour.
But it was Man United debuts for Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez, who were signed from Brentford and Erik ten Hag’s former club Ajax in the summer. His companion Tyrell Malacia was also named among the replacements.
Meanwhile, Brighton did not list any new signings in the starting XI, although Chelsea loanee Levi Colwill was on the bench.
Moises Caicedo, another to catch the eye, while Gross, Adam Lallana and Solly March were all involved, the latter’s low driven cross by David de Gea straight at that man before Gross again side-footed it into an empty net.
It could have been worse for the home side, with McTominay’s unfortunate sliding tackle Caicedo caught high on the ankle midway through the first half, with VAR deciding to give the Scotland midfielder the benefit of the doubt.
All eyes were on Ronaldo, who should have scored the next goal of the contest, and although United settled into a flat back four, it took ten Haag a while to bring the Portuguese forward.
However, VAR somehow ruled that new United centre-back Lisandro Martinez didn’t put Welbeck in the box and the hosts soon got back into the game when previously safe Robert Sanchez took a corner and McAllister rolled the ball over himself and into the net after a goalmouth scramble.
VAR confirmed the goal after a potential handball by Diogo Dalot and a possible clearance from Harry Maguire, but United stopped with half-time to turn the game around.
But, despite plenty of possession and a strong home crowd allowing them, Brighton comfortably ran down the clock to leave Ten Hag behind.
United play Brentford at Brentford Community Stadium (5.30pm) live in the Sky Sports Premier League, while Brighton host Newcastle United, both games taking place on Saturday 13 August.