Cristiano Ronaldo ends nightmarish goal drought in style before Bruno Fernandes takes victory
RALF RANGNICK said he was fed up with the performances of Manchester United’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
But this time Cristiano Ronaldo provided the perfect antidote to prevent another horror show.
It was the first half that disappointed on this occasion, but in the 51st minute Ronaldo dug deep into the arches to produce one of his classic moments on a night when the veteran could have scored a hat-trick.
When Brighton captain Lewis Dunk was sent off three minutes later, Man Utd had appeared to have an advantage although they weren’t going to let go this time.
But it’s not that simple anymore and Jakub Molder would hit the crossbar before former United striker Danny Welbeck slotted a loose header in the last minute of the 90 as Brighton nearly stole a share of the points.
Then, in the sixth minute of seven extra, on a short break, Bruno Fernandes scored a second.
United, who are feeling the pressure by the minute, had looked shaken early on with a loose ball from Fred, giving Brighton the first chance of the game after just five minutes.
No one knew exactly who the pass was intended for, but Pascal Gross retrieved it and fed Moder.
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David de Gea had his right angles and blocked his shot at the near post.
It was contagious because when Adam Webster tried to control a long punt at the other end, he completely miscontrolled and only managed to kick the ball over Ronaldo who was returning from an outside position. -Game.
Ronaldo was out and as Webster returned the Portuguese star played a smart backheel to Jadon Sancho whose shot was also saved at the near post.
Rangnick said before the match that Sancho was finding the form that made him such a sensation in the Bundesliga and there is a growing threat from those quick feet every time he is on the ball.
He was involved in some good preparation which saw Anthony Elanga charge into the box but Marc Cucurella’s tackle was perfectly timed.
Brighton entered the game full of confidence on a run of seven unbeaten in the league.
Like most visitors these days, they didn’t seem intimidated by a trip to Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, United were everywhere at the back.
They weren’t helped by a late reshuffle when Raphael Varane fell ill an hour before the game and was replaced by Victor Lindelof.
It was Lindelof who looked lost when the best half-time chance presented itself to Brighton.
Joel Veltman’s cross was perfect and Alexis Mac Allister rose the tallest to send a striking header to the top left corner – only for David De Gea to pull off an incredible save as he grabbed the ball.
It’s just as well that he’s in top form this season or God knows where United would be.
United looked in shambles earlier than normal in a game and when Brighton had another effort this time from Yves Bissouma who went just wide, the boos started to ring out.
They had to provide a quick response after the break and it came.
There’s still a pinch of magic left at Ronaldo’s feet as he completely changed the mood at Old Trafford with a goal six minutes into the restart.
Credit Scott McTominay who pushed on a hesitant Bissouma, forcing the ball to spring towards Ronaldo.
He walked away, those sharp little steps taking him inside Webster before unleashing a shot that gave Robert Sanchez no chance.
He charged the corner flag in celebration with an expression more of defiance than joy.
His barren six-game streak in front of goal, his worst since 2009, is now over.
Things would immediately get worse for Brighton after the restart when they were down to ten men – eventually.
United were pressing and trying to force mistakes.
So when Webster put a ball in front of his own dunk box, Fred anticipated and was on top of him snatching the ball from him only for the Brighton captain to knock it down.
The United players immediately surrounded referee Peter Bankes demanding that he be the last defender and deserve a red card.
Bankes showed a yellow no doubt believing Webster was covering but VAR Jarred Gillett told him to take another look at the pitchside screen.
After a few views, he reconciled that Webster wouldn’t have made it and the yellow turned red.
Ronaldo would have two more chances to make the game safe, one overturned header, another he pushed aside.
Then in the 71st minute, the Brighton goalkeeper passes the ball directly to him. He squared for fellow Portuguese Fernandes, leaving him only the keeper to beat.
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But his shot was too close to him, at the perfect height and Sanchez pushed the ball away.
It was at the same Stretford End that Fernandes missed a similar gift of a chance in the FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough by hitting the post.
This time he made up for it by sprinting to take a second in the final act of the game as United moved back into the top four.
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