After Neal Maupay had given Brighton the lead, Lewis Dunk’s own goal and Marcus Rashford’s strike swung the game in Manchester United’s favour before Solly March equalised late on. However, there was still time for United to be awarded a late spot-kick which Bruno Fernandes dispatched nervelessly in the tenth minute of injury time to seal a dramatic win.
After coming close to opening the scoring in the game's early exchanges and hitting the woodwork multiple times, the hosts deservedly took the lead through Maupay’s penalty. Tariq Lamptey ran in behind the Manchester United defence and was brought down by Fernandes; Brighton’s French striker then converted from the spot with a cheeky Panenka.
Brighton had scarcely settled after scoring their opener when Manchester United were back on level terms with their first effort on target. Fernandes floated in a left-sided free-kick to the back post that was played back across the face of goal by Nemanja Matic and turned in by a combination of Lewis Dunk and Harry Maguire.
Brighton were awarded a second spot-kick soon after the half-time interval, though, when Paul Pogba brought down Aaron Connolly in the box.
However, the decision was overturned by VAR before Manchester United took the lead a few minutes later. Marcus Rashford cut in from the left and sat a couple of Brighton’s defenders down before firing a deflected left-footed shot into the top-right corner.
Despite the best efforts of the home side who peppered the Manchester United goal with shots, the Red Devils maintained their lead till the 95th minute. March then headed home a cross from the right, coming in unmarked at the back post to secure what he thought was a well-deserved point for his side, but Manchester United had other ideas.
United went up the other end and forced their first corner of the game. The resultant cross was headed towards goal by Maguire and took a flick off Maupay’s outstretched arm, which led to the visitors being awarded a late penalty. Fernandes stepped up and converted the spot-kick with aplomb to secure all three points for his side.
On that note, here are the five major talking points from an enthralling affair at the Amex Stadium.
#1 VAR takes centre-stage
While much can be made of Brighton’s slick play and Manchester United’s sluggish midfield and defence and their pacy forwards, the spotlight in this game firmly shone on the VAR which was kept quite busy throughout the course of the game.
Manchester United had goals chalked off for offside in each half while Brighton had a penalty disallowed just after the break. The hosts' opener, which came from the penalty spot, was also reviewed by VAR, but the call stood.
VAR was in action till the last minute of the game when Manchester United were awarded a very late spot-kick after Neal Maupay handled the ball inside his box in the final exchanges. Although neither side could really complain about the legitimacy of any of the decisions, VAR’s prominent involvement was certainly a major talking point in the game.
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#2 A worrying dip in form for Manchester United’s central midfield stars
When Bruno Fernandes arrived in England in January, few could have foreseen the impact he would have on Manchester United’s fortunes. His performances from midfield were crucial in United’s run to third place that secured Champions League football for the Red Devils.
However, his form seemed to have taken a slight dip towards the end of last season as the games came thick and fast for Manchester United. It seems as if the start of the season came a bit too early for the Portuguese playmaker who has seemed off the pace in his first two outings.
Fernandes’ midfield partner Paul Pogba, who came in for some criticism for his showing against Palace, has similarly appeared off the boil as well. His performance against Brighton was not much encouraging either as he was taken off with 25 minutes to go.
Both of Manchester United’s midfield stars also conceded penalties to further blot their copybooks; the Frenchman’s transgression, fortunately, was rescinded by VAR, but Fernandes was not so lucky.
Although Fernandes went on to redeem himself by grabbing an assist and a very late winner, Manchester United would like their star midfielders to deliver much more consistently if they are to replicate their positive showing from last season.
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