Brighton 4-0 Man United: How The Seagulls Demolished Cristiano and co.

The 2021/22 Premier League has been a series of ‘what are we watching’ moments for Manchester United fans. From the humiliating last days of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the ever-increasingly strained relationship between interim coach Ralf Rangnick and the board, all the way to the question marks hanging over the players’ futures and motivations, United’s tumble out of the Champions League race has been as embarrassing as it has frustrating. 

Saturday 7th May 2022 somehow managed to surpass even these lows, however, with Graham Potter’s Brighton and Hove Albion absolutely demolishing the Red Devils. The 4-0 scoreline was not a flattering one either, with the Seagulls doing a stellar job in exposing the abysmal state of Manchester United right now. Check out SinkorSwimSports’ take on this damning day on the south coast, all the best Brighton vs Man United stats, and where things hang for the Red Devils now. 

Brighton’s Best Day Ever

All of the fallout from this fixture will revolve around the dire situation at Manchester United, and the immense rebuild ahead of Erik ten Hag’s arrival, so we’re going to try and give Brighton some of the limelight their dominant display deserves. 

Coming into the game, there were plenty of reasons for Brighton to feel extremely confident. One loss (against Man City) and four wins in seven games, the Seagulls have drawn at Anfield, won two points on merit against Chelsea, and won consecutive matches against Arsenal and Spurs this season. The team had just won 3-0 at Wolves to set their best-ever points tally, and their new system looked like it was always going to exploit some of the biggest weaknesses this United side has. 

The emergence of Moises Caicedo, making his sixth consecutive appearance against United, has beefed up an already-impressive midfield, and Marc Cucurella’s energy on the left of the defence has made the Seagulls one of the most expansive teams in the division. Given the lack of mobility provided by Scott McTominany and Nemanja Matic, and the issues United have had at full-back, a tough afternoon looked like it could have been on the cards.

In many ways, Brighton’s recent successes have come about from all the things United have neglected over the season – savvy recruitment, set roles and responsibilities, genuine effort, and cohesion between a club’s hierarchy with the head coach. 

Diabolical United

In a season that has been filled with tonkings against everyone from Man City and Liverpool to Leicester and Watford, Saturday’s fixture felt especially embarrassing. 

Despite all of the good form and record-breaking points tallies, Brighton hadn’t won a game at home throughout 2022. However, they were able to out-play and, more importantly, out-work this United side for the whole ninety minutes where the outcome always looked more of a matter of by how many’ the Seagulls were going to win by.

The cries of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” that rung out from the Amex away end weren’t directed at any specific player, but were more the latest chapter in the fractured discontent fans have with the club right now. 

The defeat on the south coast confirms United will finish this season with their lowest points total since 1990/91. It also officially ended the Red Devils’ chances of finishing in the top four, with Europa League football not even confirmed yet, and third-tier competition in the Conference League still a very realistic prospect. 

Man City have only dropped sixteen points all season which, for reference, was exactly how many United had dropped that many in November when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was dismissed

Every Brighton touch was greeted by ‘oles’, the likes of Cucurella and Pascal Gross were whipping out party tricks for fun. The scoreline could (and probably should) have been even more humiliating, had Danny Welbeck and Alexis Mac Allister buried their chances either side of half-time.  

Brighton ended the game with an xG of 2.75, whilst United only registered 0.72. The Seagulls produced 88% of the game’s chances with their 17 attempts, with Graham Potter’s side managing a whopping 18 passes within 20 yards of the Red Devils’ goal. In terms of xPTS from the performance, Brighton managed 2.74, whilst United only finished with 0.17. 

The Fallout 

United’s fixture at Brighton marks the penultimate game of Ralf Rangnick’s strange half-season at the helm. After the Red Devils’ final game of the season against Crystal Palace, the German will move into his role as a consultant with the club, whilst also taking over as manager of the Austrian national team. 

Rangnick arrived with plenty of acclamation behind him, but has been frustrated both on and off the pitch, and is set to leave the dugout with United going backward. Rangnick hasn’t been able to resolve really any of the issues that were hanging over United at the beginning of his tenure, and the defeat against Brighton brought about probably the most scathing in his series of tirades against the players and board. 

“It was a terrible performance. From the first until the last minute it was not enough. We can only apologise for this performance and a humiliating defeat.

“We were never in a position where we could stop them playing through our lines. We told the players to be as compact as they could but we couldn’t stop it.

“I don’t think they ignored the gameplan but we weren’t able to stop them. We gave them too much space and if you do that against a technically good team like Brighton, you will get punished.”

When asked about what positions United don’t need to improve on in the summer, the German was quick to snap back with a blunt “goalkeeper” response. And this isn’t a stretch sort of remark, with United being branded a team solely reliant on their Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Only Leeds’ Illan Meslier (134) has made more saves this season than David de Gea (126); whilst Ronaldo has scored nine of United’s last twelve goals. The future of Ronaldo is one of the biggest question marks hanging over United ahead of the Ten Hag rebuild, though the body language on show from the Portuguese talisman at the Amex was far from convincing for fans. 

Bruno Fernandes, the vice-captain for the match against Brighton, also spoke about the state of the side on Saturday: 

“What we did, what I did, was not enough to be in a Manchester United shirt and I accept it, they outplayed us, they always had a solution, pressed us better, and deserved the result.

A little bit of everything went wrong. Quality. Mentality. They deserved to win and we deserve to be in the position we are in now.

It’s something we have to look at and be embarrassed about because that was not good enough from us and we have to do much better.

I signed my contract because I think the future can be good, but obviously many things need to be fixed, as we have seen this season.”