Manchester United 2 Brighton 1
Manchester United kept up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's history-making winning streak as Reds caretaker boss with a 2-1 success against Brighton at Old Trafford.
The home side were at our adventurous attacking best in a first-half inspired by goals from Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, with the latter an outrageous highlight, but the Seagulls pulled one back through Pascal Gross to turn a stroll into something of a late sweat.
On the weekend United are commemorating 25 years since Sir Matt Busby passed away, Solskjaer was on the brink of overtaking the legendary post-War Old Trafford boss, who began his tenure as manager with five straight victories in 1946.
There was warm and wonderful applause and a rousing ovation for the Scot before kick-off to mark the anniversary of his death in 1994. A sixth league win eluded Busby 73 years ago, when his Reds side drew at home to Chelsea 1-1, but United are on a roll under Solskjaer with six wins out of six in all competitions.
The Norwegian was set to name an unchanged XI after the three points at Tottenham but left-back Luke Shaw fell ill before the match and had to be replaced in the starting line-up by Diogo Dalot.
The rekindled spirit of energy and fight was evident from the start as United set about Brighton like a pack of terriers, biting into tackles and snapping up every loose ball. The visitors were penned back and hardly able to gain possession. United’s dominance brought a free-kick from Pogba, which smashed into the wall, the Frenchman then superbly opened up the goal to create space for a shot but his effort sailed over.
To their credit, Chris Hughton’s side dug deep and began to emerge as a defiant opponent and managed to create a couple of openings themselves. But the Reds were having none of it and a Rashford-Pogba inspired spell saw United wear the Seagulls down. The pair had shots blocked and Pogba had an overhead kick deflect wide.
The pressure was intense and, when Pogba got himself into the penalty area after 25 minutes, the harassed full-back Gaetan Bong sent him crashing for a spot-kick. Pogba grabbed the ball to secure the penalty effort for himself and Old Trafford audibly encouraged his staccato run up before he burst into life and smashed the 12-yard kick past keeper David Button.
United’s second goal after 42 minutes was an exceptional finish by Rashford. Pre-match SOS left-back Dalot set it up for the Mancunian who had expertly pushed the ball wide to the defender. The Portuguese took on his marker before halting his run to slide a pass through to Rashford. The in-form striker’s footwork was close and dazzling in a tight space in the box, as he created the room to float a curler into the far corner with world-class execution. It was his fifth strike in seven matches as Solskjaer’s spearhead.
The interval did nothing to dull Rashford's confidence and adventure as he set about tormenting Brighton again. He was truly electric. The England international lashed in a free-kick four minutes into the second half and then flashed over a wicked, powerful cross that was almost converted by Jesse Lingard at the far post.
United were certainly keeping the heat on and Anthony Martial and Pogba both displayed neat trickery to set up chances that came close to extending the Reds lead. The game went into a quiet spell and Solskjaer prepared to inject new life into his side as he sent Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata to the touchline, stripped and ready to come on. But before the Belgian and Spaniard could be released into the action, Brighton stunned the Reds by clawing a goal back in the 72nd minute.
It was a simple response with Davy Propper crossing for Gross to control on his chest and poke into the net, via the underside of the bar. Lukaku had to get his warm coat back on again as Solskjaer and his staff assessed the new situation. Mata eventually came on for Lingard but it was now a rejuvenated Brighton, posing questions for United.
The match had suddenly taken on a completely different slant as the Seagulls sensed they could cause an upset.It was a test of nerve as Brighton launched late attacks in search of the equaliser but the Reds swapped verve for grit and saw the game out to secure yet another win for Solskjaer, even if Rashford appeared to pick up both an injury and yellow card in the closing stages. De Gea and co held out in stoppage time relatively comfortably, despite a few nerves, to keep the successful run going.
United: De Gea, Young (C), Lindelof, Jones, Dalot, Matic, Herrera, Lingard (Mata 74), Pogba, Rashford (Darmian 93), Martial (Lukaku 82).
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, A. Pereira, Alexis.
Scorers: Pogba (27 pen), Rashford (42)
Yellow cards: Rashford
Brighton: Button, Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong, March (Knockaert,60), Gross (Kayal 81) Stephens, Propper, Locadia, Murray (Andone 60).
Subs not used: Saltor, Balogun, Steele, Gyokeres.
Scorer: Gross (72)