Manchester United had to battle hard for the first time at home this season as they eked out a narrow 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday
Both sides exchanged blows in the early stages of the match without either of them ever managing to create a clear cut opportunity. With build-up play lacking much of a tempo from the hosts, chances came few and far between.
The best moment of the first half resulted in Mathew Ryan producing a brilliant double save to deny Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba just before half-time. The second half continued in the same manner, with a resolute Brighton side frustrating Manchester United while also creating a few chances of their own.
The breakthrough finally came midway through the second half from a corner that was contentiously awarded to the hosts as the cleared ball from the set-piece found its way towards Ashley Young, who struck a long-range effort which was wickedly deflected off Lewis and past a wrong-footed Ryan.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 25, 2017
Both sides came close in the final twenty minutes of the game, but the score remained 1-0, meaning Manchester United maintained their 100% home record this season. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jose Mourinho’s men after a battling win on Saturday.
David De Gea: 7/10
A quiet night for the Manchester United number one, he had more work to do with his feet than with his gloves. De Gea did not go untested though, as he made a smart save off Pascal Gross early on, but with Brighton failing to create a clear cut chance, he did not have much to do apart from make a few routine catches.
Antonio Valencia: 6.5/10
With Manchester United dominating the proceedings, Valencia spent large parts of the game in the opposition half. The Ecuadorian did make several good overlapping runs while linking up well with Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, but his final ball was often inaccurate, making his impact in the final third quite minimal.
The Manchester United skipper needs to pull his socks up, especially when it comes to his attacking outlet after many a disappointing performance.
Victor Lindelof: 8/10
Lindelof’s game by numbers vs. Brighton:
100% tackles won
— Iconic No 7 (@IconicNo7) November 25, 2017
This was finally the game when Lindelof showed just what Jose Mourinho saw in him when he shelled out the big bucks in the summer. After a few underwhelming outings to start his Manchester United careeer, it looks like the Swede is starting to find his feet at Old Trafford.
While Glenn Murray sought to make things difficult for him, Lindelof was equal to the striker’s threat. In addition to that, he also had quite a few notable moments in the game, the most memorable of which was his tackle on Anthony Knockaert in the second half to stop a Brighton counterattack in its inception. Onwards and upwards for the youngster.
Chris Smalling: 7.5/10
With Knockaert often finding a clear run in the Manchester United half, Smalling made himself to be the second line of defence to cover up for Ashley Young. That is where his positioning and reading of the game came into the picture, with the Englishman successfully keeping things tight at all times.
All in all, it was yet another solid performance by the player, with his unspectacular, yet effective being the name of the game for him.
Ashley Young: 8.5/10
Ashley Young vs Brighton:
1 deflect goal
1 key pass
100% dribbles completed
Our best LB right now? pic.twitter.com/n0Xt5o2BJe
— The Red Devils (@Chris_Lawro_) November 26, 2017
Just when you think that his time at Old Trafford could be coming to an end, Ashley Young stands up and delivers. That has been the case for him this season, and the veteran of 300 Premier League games just continues to grow in stature with each passing game.
On Saturday, he was quite easily the brightest spark for Manchester United, with his energetic runs creating whatever little impact his side made in and around the Brighton box, while defending doggedly at the back. In the end, it was his perseverance that paid off, with his deflected effort resulting in the only goal of the game.
Nemanja Matic: 7/10
After a minor lull of sorts just before the last international break, Matic seems to have burst into life once again. Against Brighton, while he did misplace a few passes, the Serb was crucial in his side’s dominance on the ball, as he kept Davy Propper and Dale Stephens quiet, allowing Pogba and the others to charge forward.
His side might not have taken full advantage of that, but Matic did his bit to control the tempo of the game, and quite effectively at that.
Paul Pogba: 6.5/10
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 25, 2017
Quite a sub par performance by Pogba, who showed the effects of playing three games in seven days, having only just returned to action. The Frenchman was still decently influential, even though he looks a bit short of fitness. Indeed, he looked increasingly tired towards the fag end of the game, and a start on the bench could be expected against Watford.
Marcus Rashford: 6/10
Lively and energetic for the most part, Rashford tried to make things happen with his pace and trickery. But, the role on the right wing seems to have restricted him to a great extent, with his impact greatly reduced as a result. With the player expected to continue in the same role for the near future though, he needs to work on his crossing.
Juan Mata: 6/10
Mata did his usual bit, trying to create space with his nippy movement. But, this was a night when he needed to produce more, with his passing not being incisive enough to split open the stubborn Brighton defence.
His audition in the number ten role hasn’t gone well so far, and the Spaniard needs to start putting in that killer pass in order to continue, lest he risks the same fate as Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Anthony Martial: 6.5/10
Martial was quite the menace on the left side of attack with his fleet-footed movement and trickery, with Bruno often having his hands full. But, with nearly all the men behind the ball, the Frenchman often had much to do, and without a lot of support he couldn’t create a whole lot of impact.
He did try to mix it up by crossing in a few balls that looked dangerous, but that is one aspect of his game that needs some work. On the brighter side, Martial provided a great deal of support to Young, putting in a huge shift defensively, and that is something that would have pleased Mourinho.
Romelu Lukaku: 6/10
It was yet another night when Lukaku could not do a great deal to impact the result, and not due to his own wrongdoing. The Belgian striker often found himself isolated, due to Brighton’s defensive resolve. He had to drop deep just to get a touch on the ball, and the lack of action understandably made him less influential on the night.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 7/10
Mourinho’s men looked like a much improved unit upon the introduction of Ibrahimovic, who zeal and leadership helped lift the persistence by the hosts. He combined well with Pogba and Lukaku as well, with one such link up almost ending in a goal. The Swede will have a huge say for the side going forward.
Henrikh Mkhitryan: 5/10
His movement and passing indicated a positive reaction to Mourinho’s comments on him on Friday. But, as the minutes wore on, his impact reduced, and it looks like Mkhitaryan is quite bereft of confidence. Not a positive sign at all.
Marouane Fellaini: N/A
Came on for a tired Rashford with ten minutes to go. Fellaini slotted into the midfield, providing a lot of support to Matic to help see the game out.