Report: Brighton 0 United 3
Manchester United kept up the heat on the top four as the Reds cruised to a 3-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium thanks to another Bruno Fernandes-inspired display.
A brace form Fernandes, including a second-half volley to round off a stunning counterattack, followed a first-half strike from Mason Greenwood to help to clinch a first win for the club away at Brighton since 1982.
The victory at the Amex means United have now gone 15 games unbeaten in all competitions, including three wins and a draw since the restart earlier this month.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side move up to fifth in the table ahead of Wolverhampton Wanderers on goal difference and just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and only three behind third-placed Leicester City, although both teams have a game in hand.
United kicked-off on the South Coast and quickly set about putting our plan into action, controlling the ball inside the Brighton half of the field. However, it was the home side who produced the first shot of the evening when Dale Stephens fired well over the bar from distance after the ball dropped to the him from a Harry Maguire clearance.
The Reds came close to taking the lead themselves in the 13th minute when Fernandes struck the woodwork with a venomous low effort. Maguire got the move going with a delightful diagonal ball to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, before the full-back worked it to Paul Pogba who offloaded to Fernandes.
As the ball rebounded back off the post Pogba was first to it, but the Frenchman couldn’t keep his follow-up down. Ole’s side continued to build pressure around the box and there were shouts from the United bench for a penalty when Marcus Rashford went down in the area under the challenge of Dan Bunn, but referee Andre Marriner was unmoved – as was VAR.
The onslaught continued and the Seagulls’s resolve was broken by the inspired run of Greenwood on 16 minutes. The young forward burst into the box, danced past Lewis Dunk, who was making his 300th appearance for the club, and stroked the ball left-footed into the bottom corner.
A well-deserved lead might have been doubled when Pogba was brought down just outside the Brighton penalty area following some intense pressing from United, though Fernandes lifted the free-kick over the bar. Maguire too went close soon after, heading a corner back across goal but just wide to bring up the first drinks break.
Any fears that the brief interval may disrupt the rhythm of the Reds was short lived. Luke Shaw broke along the near touchline and drove a cross into the middle that was crying out for an attacker to meet it.
Although the ball was cleared, it was recovered almost immediately and Pogba was able to play it to Fernandes. The Portuguese unleashed an effort from the edge of the area that deflected and flew past Mathew Ryan and into the back of the net to give the Reds a 2-0 advantage.
Five minutes into the second half Fernandes had another. Swift out the blocks once again United had the hosts on the back foot, allowing Greenwood to turn provider and swing an inch-perfect cross to Fernandes at the far post. Having already proved his eye for goal the Portuguese attacker made no mistake, converting on the volley from close range for his sixth goal for the club and certainly the pick of our three on the night.
Although still firmly in control, United were just beginning to let Brighton in around the hour-mark, with Leandro Trossard having a couple of chances. In response Ole looked to freshen things up with a triple change of Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira and Brandon Williams for Pogba, Fernandes and Shaw on 64 minutes.
David De Gea was called into action for the first time in the match when Aaron Connolly stuck a firm shot towards the top right corner 21 minutes from time, but the Spaniard was alive to the danger and brilliantly tipped the ball over. Six minutes later and De Gea again denied the hosts with a strong right glove to keep out substitute Neal Maupay’s deflected effort.
Brighton continued to press to find a consolation goal but go no reward, allowing the Reds to regain dominance in the final 10 minutes. Substitutes McTominay and Daniel James will consider themselves unlucky not to have added to the goal tally after seeing shots saved by Ryan, but that takes nothing away from a very comfortable display for the Reds which increases our unbeaten run to 15 games.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Lamptey (Trossard 46), Duffy, Dunk (Bernardo 82), Burn, Montoya, Bissouma, Stephens, Propper (Maupay 46), MacAllister (Mooy 82), Connolly (March 87).
Subs not used: Button, Schelotto, Gross, Murray.
United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw (Williams 64), Fernandes (Andreas 64), Matic, Pogba (McTominay 64), Greenwood, Martial (Ighalo 78), Rashford (James 78).
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Fred, Mata.
Scorers: Greenwood 16, Fernandes 29, 50