|Photo from India Today|
It seems as though brighter days have finally arrived. Manchester United cruised to their fifth win in six games by rolling over Brighton (3-1) on Sunday afternoon, and for once, the Reds can jet off to international duty in high spirits.
The thing that has hurt United the most this season is the inconsistency. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men kicked off the season in rampant fashion, and they managed to follow it up with some decent performances thereafter — but with nothing to show for it.
United could barely buy a goal unless it was from the penalty spot after losing their killer instincts following the Chelsea season opener, but after the Liverpool game last month, something changed. Something clicked.
United came out of the dreaded end of October – beginning of November stretch with five wins (three away from home) and a slip up to Bournemouth. The floodgates gradually began to open, the return of Anthony Martial freed up the now clear top goal scorer in Marcus Rashford, and United started playing with a bit more poise and character about them.
The last of those five wins unfolded on Sunday against Brighton. It wasn’t too far fetched to think that this could have been another one of those classic United slip up games at home. But, perhaps to the surprise of many, it was quite the contrary.
United came out of the gates with purpose and intensity, and it showed throughout the game. It was perhaps the most complete 90 minutes of football that we have seen from United this season. The attacking interplay was fluid, the midfield was on top of every loose and second ball, and the defensive unit was as solid as ever.
Solskjaer’s men pressed at all the right times. This time, a little lower on the pitch — exposing the visitors to a multitude of counter attacks. From there, United’s pace and offensive interplay took over.
The scoring was opened by Andreas Pereira after his deflected strike found the goal following an exchange with Martial and a bit of luck. The second came almost instantly following a set-piece (yes, you read that right). United finally managed to get a goal from a set play as Harry Maguire knocked Fred’s in-swinging free kick into the path of Scott McTominay, who then managed to force the ball over the line with some help from a Brighton defender.
Brighton were not very dangerous, but they managed to pull one back through a set-piece of their own. Lewis Dunk managed to lose his marker inside United’s six yard box, allowing the visitors skipper to fire a close range header home to give them some life.
The visitors hopes were very short lived though, as Martial and Marcus Rashford linked up terrifically yet again, with the latter firing home off the crossbar to all but put the game to bed.
Rashford, who is in red hot form at the moment, could have left Old Trafford with two match balls on Sunday, but his finishing let the young Englishman down. With that said, Rashford is now United’s clear cut top goal scorer this season with nine in all competitions and he did convert his chance when it mattered most.
The Reds performance overall was extremely encouraging. Good showings from the likes of Fred and Premier League debutant, Brandon Williams. It feels like perhaps the international break is coming at the wrong time for United, but with the momentum building and only six players set to go off on international duty, it is a good opportunity for some players to get rest and come back ready for the always difficult and action packed month of December.
Check out the Player Ratings below:
De Gea: 7/10
It was far from a busy afternoon for the Spaniard. He wasn’t required to do much and was helpless for the visitors goal.
Another solid outing from “The Spider.” It was just more of what he has gotten the fans used to. Flawless in defense and beginning to contribute more in the opposition half.
A much needed assured performance from the Swede. After a couple of shaky weeks, he really needed a calm, errorless game — and this was it.
The same that was said for his partner today can be said for him. Some mistakes here and there in recent weeks may have impacted the confidence of United’s interim skipper, but he looked back to his old self on Sunday. A composed leader of men.
A flawless first Premier League start from the 19-year-old. Composed and calculated beyond his years, the young Englishman is well on his way to making the left-back spot his own. As Solskjaer himself said, he is making it very difficult for the manager not to pick him with his performances.
Another commanding display from United’s midfield general and possibly the player of the year so far. Hopefully the injury he picked up at the end was nothing serious, as the Scot has become indispensable for the Reds this season.
By far the best 90 minutes in a United shirt for No. 17. His energy in the middle was huge to United’s pressing. He won the ball back countless times and played a role in all of the goals. This is the Fred we all want to see every week.
Sensational. It seemed like he was glued to the right touchline and the Welshman was running rings around Brighton’s left-back. Some poor finishing robbed the 22-year-old off a couple of assists on his birthday, but he is really becoming an integral part of this football club.
There was a lot of luck involved in his goal, but it was the right decision to shoot at that time nonetheless. The Brazilian looked much more composed in the No. 10 role on Sunday, and he brought some valuable energy into the middle of the park. An encouraging display.
It would have been a 10/10 afternoon for United’s top scorer if he was a little more precise with some of his chances. The Reds No. 10 missed a few sitters, but he scored when it mattered and his interplay with Martial was very crisp and effective. He was a nuisance to Brighton’s back line.
It feels so good to have the Frenchman back healthy. No goals on Sunday but two assists on the board instead. He is a crucial part to United’s offensive flow. He makes the team tick. When in form, he is near unstoppable. His partnership with Rashford has the potential to be deadly.
It was a good substitution at the right time. Jesse just cannot find his feet in the final third, but he brought some well needed fresh legs into the middle and found himself in a couple of nice positions.
It was disappointing to see Mason come on so late with no time to really contribute to the game.
A late cosmetic substitution to give Williams a standing ovation at Old Trafford, not enough time to score a rating.