Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Manchester United Six Things: Seagulls Soar

Is Pascal Gross one of the Premier League’s signings of the season? –

Brighton & Hove Albion secured Premier League survival on Friday night, when Pascal Gross’ header gave them a 1-0 victory over a disjointed Manchester United side. Here’s six things from the game.

Brave Brighton

We have seen Brighton defend too deep at times this season, but here the timing of their pressing was co-ordinated perfectly. Not only double-pivot of fierce battler Dale Stephens and the returning Davy Propper deny space for the visitors in the final third, they often stopped them getting there. Pascal Gross made the duo’s job easier with his excellent closing down, which stopped visiting centre-backs Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo play out from the back.

Dave saves

Brighton’s vigorous pressing was encouraged partially by United’s lack of balance. Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata are all at their best in the final third but here, they could not get further forward than the centre circle. Despite this, Jose Mourinho’s men looked vulnerable in the transitional phases, when Nemanja Matic was unable to halt Anthony Knockaert’s clever runs in from the right. The Frenchman’s work contributed to first half efforts from Jose Izquierdo and Glenn Murray from outside the box, both of which forcing excellent stops from David De Gea. The Spanish stopper kept Manchester United in the game and remains the team’s only consistently world-class player in the post-Fergie era.

Rashford’s big moment

Lewis Dunk had enjoyed an impressive first half, blocking Anthony Martial’s long range effort, but the one blemish was an over-zealous first touch that allowed Marcus Rashford to steal in. Fortunately for the Seagulls, the young striker hesitated with Mata and Martial in support, when an early pass to the latter looked the best option, before the moment fizzled out to the frustration of Mourinho, who publicly confronted him before half-time.

Gross profits

Mourinho made a visible effort to be the first man in the United dressing room at the break but after his team talk, the midfield looked just as disjointed as it had done in the first half. After another swift attack, Izquierdo saw his close-range header clawed away by De Gea but Gross’ rebound header was subsequently confirmed to have been over the line through VAR, despite the last-ditch attempts of Rojo.

Divided Devils

Manchester United pushed further forward once Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw came on, after which Maty Ryan made an impressive two-handed stop from Rashford. And yet, the late barrage of pressure that away fans might have hoped for was not forthcoming, or at least not with the required quality of end product. For all the money the club has invested, they do not appear to have a coherent playing identity, which raises major question marks about not just their FA Cup Final chances, but also whether they have the minerals to challenge for the title next season.

Seagulls soar

Manchester United’s performance deserves scrutiny, but the fact they have been beaten by Brighton should not be highlighted in a derogatory way. Based on the slick, confident football the Seagulls played at times, they have more in the repertoire than hard work and organization. This is a team that is improving year on year and while most of the media attention will inevitably go to United, it is important that Chris Hughton’s side get their recognition.