Report: United 2 Brighton 0
Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes scored in spectacular style to ensure the Reds got back to winning ways by helping the Reds to a 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Ronaldo’s 51st-minute hit and a second, at the death, by Fernandes sent United back into the top four of the Premier League.
Brighton had their captain Lewis Dunk sent off a minute after we took the lead but the 10-man Seagulls held off United’s efforts to ease the nerves until six minutes into added-on time when Fernandes slammed in a breakaway chance to make it 2-0.
FIRST HALF - CHANCES FEW AND FAR BETWEEN
United have been out of the traps quickly recently in matches against Middlesbrough, Burnley and Southampton to launch promising starts to the first 45 minutes. But it was Brighton who began on the front foot with the first chance of the match after just five minutes. A loose ball from Fred was gobbled up and eventually Jakub Moder was in behind United’s lines. His shot, however, was cleanly gathered by David De Gea.
The Reds did respond, a minute later, when we seized on an error by Adam Webster and Ronaldo sent Jadon Sancho racing down the left flank before firing off a shot that keeper Robert Sanchez saved. Sancho was swiftly onto the rebound but his shot came off Lewis Dunk and spun high over the bar.
An excellent Fernandes pass found the lively Sancho again and he fed Anthony Elanga but he was thwarted by a timely rescuer tackle from Marc Cucurella. Largely, however, this wasn’t the United of the last few first halves when we’ve dominated and created bucketloads of chances.
Fortunately, Brighton hadn’t created much when they were on top but they frightened the life out of Old Trafford late in the first half. After 39 minutes, a cross from the right by Joel Veltman was met with a strong header by Moder that was goal bound before De Gea took off to make an eye-catching, flying one-handed save.
Our Spanish stopper couldn’t get anywhere near a crashing shot from Yves Bissouma, a minute later, but the midfielder's effort sped past the post after an incisive move left him in the clear.
A foul by Alexis Mac Allister on Elanga around the edge of the Brighton box provided the Reds with a perfect way to end the half on a high but Ronaldo’s free kick smacked into Bissouma in the Brighton wall and away for a corner.
SECOND HALF - CRISTIANO AND BRUNO STRIKE FOR REDS
It was a cracking start to the second half by United as we seized on Brighton’s own undoing when Scott McTominay caught a dawdling Bissouma in possession after 51 minutes. The ball rolled to Ronaldo and he hammered in a long-range drive past Sanchez to relieve the tension and end a rare barren spell in style.
The Seagulls were rattled and Elanga’s challenge forced their captain Dunk into a messy tackle which brought the Swede to the ground. Dunk was initially booked, much to the United players' anger, who expected a red. Referee Peter Bankes was then instructed to take a second look at the pitchside monitor and, after a brief study, upgraded the yellow card and sent Dunk off to reduce the visitors to 10 men.
The goal and one-man advantage lifted the Old Trafford crowd and they were roaring again when they thought Ronaldo was going to grab his second after 66 minutes. A clipped cross from Fernandes was planted perfectly on Ronaldo’s head but keeper Sanchez flipped the firm effort over his bar.
United amazingly let Brighton off the hook in the 71st minute when Sanchez presented us with a glorious chance as his attempted clearance fell neatly for Ronaldo. Our No. 7 unselfishly set up Fernandes but the goalkeeper redeemed himself as he saved well from the Portuguese midfielder’s attempt.
Paul Pogba came on for Fred after 71 minutes and almost immediately had a shot blocked before Ronaldo came close to heading home, sending his attempt wide, as the Reds looked for the comfort of a second goal. Failure to extend the lead almost came back to haunt us in the 78th minute when a 20-yarder from Morder rattled De Gea’s crossbar.
Bruno versus Sanchez part-two saw a better effort from Fernandes but, once again, the Brighton keeper stood firm. He was also on hand to save Harry Maguire’s shot as United staged a late effort to grab the second and avoid a nervy finale.
Just as the 90 minutes came up there was a massive fright as old boy Danny Welbeck, who'd come on as a sub in the 70th minute, was afforded a free header but the Mancunian steered his effort over the bar. The relief was audible.
However, with six minutes of added time called, the tension wasn't fully relieved until Fernandes broke away in the last seconds on a solo run after a quick Pogba free-kick and scored our second of the night to inflict only Albion's second away defeat of the entire league campaign.
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United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw; McTominay, Fred (Pogba 73), Fernandes; Elanga (Rashford 79), Ronaldo, Sancho (Telles 79).
Subs not used: Heaton, Henderson, Jones, Wan-Bissaka, Lingard, Mata.
Goals: Ronaldo (51), Fernandes (90+6)
Bookings: Fernandes, Shaw, McTominay.
Brighton: Sanchez, Veltman, Dunk, Webster, Cucurella, Bissouma, Gross (Alzate 59), Mac Allister, Moder, Trossard (Lamptey 59), Maupay (Welbeck 70).
Subs not used: Steele, Lallana, March, Duffy, Caicedo, Ferguson.
Bookings: Mac Allister.
Sent off: Dunk