New season, new manager… but still the same Manchester United.
Erik ten Hag’s reign as Red Devils manager got off to a nightmare start as his side lost 2-1 to Brighton at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Pascal Gross netted two first half goals on the Seagull’s way to a memorable victory, despite a late second half fightback from the home side.
It was memorable for just how poor United were, particularly in the first 45 minutes of the game.
The big talking point before the match was over Cristiano Ronaldo and Ten Hag decided he was not fit enough to start, with debutant Christian Eriksen surprisingly playing in a false nine role.
For all the talk about their star man, it was their problem midfield that continues to plague United and it led to Brighton’s opener half an hour into the match.
Scott McTominay lost possession inside the visitors’ half and Leandro Trossard played a through-ball to Welbeck, whose cut-back across the six-yard area was turned home by Gross at the far post.
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McTominay’s performance in particular came under scrutiny in the match, with suggestions that he was lucky to even be on the pitch for a nasty challenge on Moises Caicedo.
United were torn apart again in the 39th minute when the ball was transferred with ease from a move down near Brighton’s corner flag.
Just four passes was all it took to move the ball into United’s penalty area from where Trossard crossed from the right for Gross to score at the far post.
Unsurprisingly, there was a fierce reaction at half-time with the United players booed off the pitch.
Ten Hag has a huge task on his hands to turn things around at the break.
talkSPORT’s Micky Gray was at Old Trafford reporting on the game and gave his verdict on what he saw from the first 45 minutes.
“What are Manchester United doing, they are all over the place,” the former Sunderland man said.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of the Erik ten Hag revolution at Manchester United. They have been absolutely atrocious.”
With no significant improvement early in the second half, Ronaldo was finally introduced in the 52nd minute to a standing ovation from some sections of Old Trafford.
It also resulted in a change of roles with Eriksen dropping into a holding midfield role for the departed Fred.
The 37-year-old made his impact felt almost immediately as he put a chance on a plate for Marcus Rashford, only for his teammate to fire the ball straight at goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.
United got themselves back into the game in the 68th minute from a scrappy goal at a corner.
Diogo Dalot’s mis-hit header rebounded off his shoulder goalwards and Alexis Mac Allister could only help it into the net despite the best efforts of Sanchez.
Brighton held on to win 2-1 to give them their first ever victory at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag is now the eighth manager (including caretakers) to take charge of Manchester United in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Six of his seven predecessors in that time have won their first ever match in charge of the Red Devils, with Louis van Gaal the only exception.
Ten Hag now joins him with that unfortunate record.
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