Cristiano Ronaldo spared Ralf Rangnick’s blushes as he helped gloss over another another lacklustre performance as Manchester United edged to a 2-0 win over Brighton.
United had David de Gea to thank for thwarting Jakub Moder on the brink of half-time to ensure the hosts went in at the break level – although they were booed off by their own fans.
But Ronaldo struck just six minutes after the break before Adam Webster was given his marching orders shortly after to hand United control.
Bruno Fernandes added a second in the dying moments to make the game safe.
The win moves United up to fourth in the league and keeps their hopes of pinching a Champions League spot alive after disappointing results against Burnley and Southampton in the last week.
Three things he got wrong…
Brighton absolutely dominated proceedings in the first period at Old Trafford and should have been ahead by the break.
But United made things all too easy for them.
United seemed quite content to sit off and give their visitors all the time in the world on the ball.
There was no tempo at all to United’s play and they showed too much respect to Brighton, who were given far too much space to play their game.
They absolutely battered United before the break – and they only have themselves to blame for not taking anything from the game.
United may have stole the points but Brighton looked like the only team on the pitch with a cohesive gameplan.
It was another disappointing night from Fred, who was tasked with leading United’s press.
But unfortunately for the Brazilian midfielder, he was completely erratic both on and off the ball against the Seagulls.
Brighton’s impressive, cohesive press only served to make Fred’s attempts look more and more ridiculous as the night went on.
United failed to complete a single tackle in the first half, with the pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay left horribly exposed once again.
The 28-year-old’s night was summed up after the decision to replace him with Paul Pogba was cheered by United’s fans late in the day.
Leaving out Pogba
Pogba was one of the few United players to emerge from their recent clashes with Burnley and Southampton with any credit.
Rangnick is clearly being cautious with the Frenchman after his long spell on the sidelines, but United sorely missed Pogba on Tuesday night.
You could argue that the game against Brighton was United’s toughest on paper over the past week, which begs the question as to why Rangnick didn’t hold Pogba back against Burnley or Southampton.
The 28-year-old divides opinion at times, but his influence was sorely missed against Brighton – who absolutely bossed the midfield battle all night.
And one thing he got right…
Keeping faith with Ronaldo
It would have been easy for Rangnick to axe Ronaldo given the veteran’s alarming run of form.
But the German innovator kept faith with United’s talisman – and he was rewarded with a top display.
Ronaldo was at the heart of everything positive about United’s play and he was in the right place at right time to give United the perfect start to the second half.
It’s now 15 goals for the season for Ronaldo – but his strike against the Seagulls was arguably his most important yet.
The onus will now be on Ronaldo to get back amongst the goals on a regular basis after finally ending his six-game drought.