Manchester United avoided falling victim to the top four wobbles of the Premier League weekend, coming back from an early deficit to beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood scored second half goals after United went down to a goal from longtime United forward Danny Welbeck and were spared a penalty by VAR.
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The win gives United 60 points, 14 behind leaders Man City with the Red Devils holding a match-in-hand. United plays is off to Granada for a Thursday match in the Europa League before visiting Tottenham on Sunday.
Brighton stays on 32 points, three ahead of 17th-place Newcastle and six clear of 18th-place Fulham. Brighton and Newcastle have played one fewer match than the Cottagers.
WATCH MANCHESTER UNITED – BRIGHTON FULL MATCH REPLAY
Three things we learned from Manchester United – Brighton
1. Stars shine to produce win: Rashford scored his first goal in five matches and just his third Premier League marker of 2021 when he ran onto Bruno Fernandes’ through ball to tie the score with a half-hour left at Old Trafford, and both the health and wealth of that combination has been critical to United’s runner-up status. Fernandes and Rashford have played in each of United’s 30 PL matches this season. Only five times has one or the other gone less than 70 minutes. And there have only been 10 occasions when neither has a goal nor an assist. United is 1W-6D-3L in those matches. When both get a goal or an an assist? 11W-2D.
2. Brighton denied penalty: Harry Maguire’s hand was on Danny Welbeck’s shoulder when the Brighton man lunged toward and missed a ball through the six-yard box, but Mike Dean wasn’t even sent to review whether he missed a possible penalty with about 20 minutes to play. It sure looked like something you’d see given many times, but all that matters is that VAR agreed with Dean. United’s good luck with penalties might be overblown, but no one will deny that fortune favored the Red Devils on Sunday
3. Rashford, Greenwood deliver in Martial’s stead: Anthony Martial hasn’t been going great guns for United this season, but the “weeks” he’ll miss with a knee injury come with the Champions League very much in the balance. It could’ve been the top four in question, too, but Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford ended dry spells to more or less hammer down their place in next season’s UCL via the league route. It’s not guaranteed, but on a weekend everyone else treaded water, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men climbed onto a nice, comfortable raft.
Man of the Match: Paul Pogba
Pogba’s show-stopping media presence means he gets a lot of grief when he’s more conductor than soloist, but the World Cup winner did the dirty work to free up Fernandes. Sure, the influential Pogba had 93 touches, an assist, two key passes, and twobig chances created, but he also won 6-of-8 duels while registering two clearances, three interceptions, and three tackles. Job well-done.
Manchester United – Brighton recap
It was all United early, as Rashford threatened to score before Mason Greenwood smashed the post.
Brighton took the lead when Welbeck ran onto a cross that grazed the top of the head of a leaping Victor Lindelof, getting a second header and putting it over the line after Dean Henderson made a fine save on the first one.
Henderson tipped another Brighton chance over the bar, and the rest of the first half was largely disappointing for the Red Devils.
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The Seagulls remained the superior side through the hour mark, but it only takes a moment of weakness for the quality of Manchester United to show through and that came when Bruno Fernandes slipped Rashford into the left side of the box for a finish beyond the reach of Robert Sanchez.
1-1, 63′. Game on.
Sanchez spilled a shot through traffic in the 77th minute and Greenwood’s hopeful plug of the ball saw it drift just over the cross bar. Were we destined for a draw?
Nope. Pogba hacked at a shot that went into the mix, and Greenwood reacted well to put it past Sanchez for 2-1.
Throw in Maguire’s lucky let-off and the Seagulls will feel they didn’t get the rub of the green again.