Our 3️⃣ points as Man Utd slump to opening day loss in Ten Hag's PL bow | OneFootball

Our 3️⃣ points as Man Utd slump to opening day loss in Ten Hag's PL bow

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Padraig Whelan

Erik ten Hag got an idea of the size of the task ahead at Manchester United following opening day defeat against Brighton at home.

Manchester United 1
Brighton 2
Full time

This is what we made of it.

The more things change

After an optimistic, even if not quite exceptional, start to pre-season, the early signs were good at Manchester United.

But just 90 minutes into the real stuff, it will be clear to Ten Hag and many supporters that the size of the task remains as large as ever.

There was little really to distinguish this performance from many of the lethargic ones witnessed so often last season.

Harry Maguire continued as captain, that frustrating Fred and Scott McTominay midfield pairing continued to work hard but offer little at either end, and Marcus Rashford spurned multiple big opportunities throughout.

Things may have changed in the dugout but much of what was witnessed on the field was the same old story.

Lisandro Martínez did start and had a shaky beginning to life, picking up a booking for a cynical foul and counting himself quite fortunate not to give away a penalty, with Raphaël Varane an interested observer from the bench. And he wasn’t the only one …

Elephant in the room

Christian Eriksen is many things. But a centre forward, or false nine given his drifting into deep space, is not one of them.

That made Ten Hag’s decision to use him there, when he would have been a much better fit in a deeper role, an odd one and that’s one he’ll have to shoulder blame for.

As will his handling of the Cristiano Ronaldo situation, given that he benched him due to frustration over his walkout in the final pre-season fixture before calling on him to save the day when required.

He did look threatening upon his introduction, setting Rashford up for a glorious chance that was missed and having a late strike brilliantly blocked.

Whatever the coach’s misgivings on Ronaldo’s behaviour throughout this summer, if the club are adamant that he will not be sold then he is much more valuable on the field than in the stands, particularly when playmakers are being utilised in his position instead.

If he is to stay this season, it is a situation that has to be resolved soon as it is now impacting the club at crunch time.

Brilliant Brighton make history

Before Sunday, Brighton had never tasted victory at Old Trafford in any fixture, drawing once and losing eight of their previous nine visits.

But at the 10th attempt, Graham Potter continued their record-breaking form from last season by masterminding a well-deserved victory.

Their mix of direct, long balls to the excellent Danny Welbeck (who made everything stick and was a constant threat with his perfect close control and running in behind) and patient, zippy build-up play kept United guessing throughout.

That was also on a day when they played without two key figures who were sold (and who featured in last season’s big win in this fixture) and when they will feel much of the big calls went against them, including a potential penalty and United’s goal.

It is hard to single any one player out. Pascal Groß will of course take the plaudits for his brace (his fifth and sixth goals against United) and showed why it was so important to keep him, Moises Caicédo was outstanding and Sánchez, despite some shaky moments, pulled off some vital saves.

Another incredible day to savour under Potter’s stewardship. A big early blow for the doubters.

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