A second half own goal from Lewis Dunk gave Manchester United a hard-fought win over Brighton.
Manchester United bounced back from their midweek disappointment in Basel with a hard-fought win over Brighton. The newly promoted Seagulls gave as good as they got in an even game, but were undone by an unfortunate own goal by Dunk, who deflected in Ashley Young’s shot in the 66th minute.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
It’s Better to be Lucky than Good
United did not play particularly well, and the winning goal had a massive element of good fortune. However, it’s three points gained for Mourinho’s side, and that is all they care about. As December rolls around, and the fixture list gets more congested, Mourinho will probably trade cohesive performances for lucky bounces and calls.
Ibrahimovic is a Calming Presence
When the Swede was brought on around the hour mark, the game was still evenly poised at 0-0, and United were beginning to get jittery. Juan Mata had been ineffective, but Ibrahimovic brought calmness to the United attack that had not been present before.
Attacks began to funnel through him, and once United got their goal, his assurance in possession meant that they always had an available pass out from the back. His presence will be vital over the next few weeks.
Brighton Need More Mobility in the Box
Anthony Knockaert was arguably the best player on the pitch. Time after time, hey used his pace to torment Young down Brighton’s right-hand side. He possesses the capability to cut in and shoot, but on this occasion, it was his crossing abilities that shone.
He put numerous excellent balls into the United penalty area, but there was never anyone on the end of them. This game was a write-off for Brighton, but if they can just get on the end of Knockaert’s deliveries, they will comfortably avoid the drop.
Lukaku’s Importance Extends Beyond Goals
Romelu Lukaku has had a curious start to his United career. Ever since the goals dried up after his initial burst, there have been murmurs of discontent, though his manager has always backed the striker.
The latter part of the game showed why Mourinho continues to have the utmost faith in Lukaku. With Marcus Rashford down, and Brighton breaking, the Belgian sprinted back to cover the position that Rashford would be in, and stop the counterattack. This is the kind of commitment and graft that Mourinho likes to see from his strikers, and mean that even if he is not scoring goals, Lukaku will maintain his importance to the team.
United Just Trying to Keep Pace
This was a must-win game for United, and a chance for them to put some kind of pressure on Manchester City, who play away at Huddersfield on Sunday. The Citizens are rampant right now, and it is all United, and the rest of the league, can do to keep them in sight.
All United can hope to do right now is to keep winning, and ensure that a win in the Manchester derby on the 10th of December can draw them to within striking distance of their rivals.