Tactical Review: Manchester United vs Brighton & Hove Albion – Premier League 2022/23

Tactical Review: Manchester United vs Brighton & Hove Albion – Premier League 2022/23

  • Tactics
  • August 11, 2022
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Manchester United’s new era under Eric Ten Hag started in the worst possible way as they lost their opening game at home to Brighton 2-1.

Brighton dominated Man United all over the pitch as the Red Devils struggled to keep the ball. There were numerous mistakes that were made by Ten Hag’s side while playing out from the back, which is understandable as the players are learning new methods. However, it was out of possession where they looked abysmal. The pressing was poor, and the work rate was not enough as well.

It was in the 30th minute when Brighton got their deserved lead through Pascal Groß. Trossard played a delightful ball into the run of Welbeck in behind the United defence, who hit the ball across the face of the goal as De Gea didn’t get to the ball. Groß was on the other side to make it 1-0 for Graham Potter’s side.

Nine minutes later, Brighton doubled their lead through Groß again as United conceded another easily avoidable goal. Solly March’s shot was unconvincingly saved by De Gea and the United defence did not clear the spillage and Groß was again at the far post to apply the finishing touch.

There was a visible shift in United’s urgency in the second half, and they got a goal back, an own goal by Alexis Mac Allister, which could be one of the messiest goals conceded in the Premier League this season. However, the game ended 2-1 despite all United’s efforts.

How Did Ten Hag Tactically Set Up Manchester United vs Brighton?

Manchester United started with a 4-3-3, which at times became a 4-2-3-1 when Bruno pushed forward while Fred and McTominay covered the gaps.

There were a few surprises in how Ten Hag set up his side, as Eriksen was deployed as false nine despite his excellent ability to play through the lines in the midfield. Van De Beek was named on the bench, one of Ten Hag’s best players from his Ajax days, and Ronaldo was also a substitute.

Man United’s formation vs Brighton

Ten Hag being a proponent of a possession-based philosophy, his intention was to overload the midfield to dominate the ball. As a result, Eriksen was dropping deep to link up with Bruno while Rashford and Sancho were making the penetrating runs. This was clearly the plan, but it was not working at all.

Maybe, Ten Hag underestimated the quality of Brighton and the skills of Graham Potter, who absolutely battered United in their own backyard.

When Ronaldo came in for Fred in the second half, United looked much better as Eriksen was now playing in his primary position. He was now pulling the strings from a deeper position and also unleashed a few shots on target. A lot of United’s ball progression was through the Danish midfielder as the home side’s attacking improved after the interval.

Using Eriksen at the heart of United’s midfield to start and building the midfield around him would have been the much better option. Also, not picking a player like Van De Beek in a possession-based approach is surprising, given the ability the Dutch midfielder possesses on the ball.

Ten Hag is known to play with a false nine instead of a traditional number nine, but his choice of Eriksen for the false nine against Brighton was a glaring error. Of course, he doesn’t have many options in that position with Martial injured but he could have deployed Bruno or more obviously Ronaldo upfront, who is more suited to play in a higher position.

Manchester United cannot start another season in crisis, and if Ten Hag doesn’t improve against Brentford, then it’s Liverpool after that.

What Was Graham Potter’s Game Plan For Brighton vs Man United?

brighton united tactics
Brighton’s formation & set up vs United

It was a tactical masterclass by Graham Potter, whose reputation around Europe is improving every season. At Old Trafford, his game plan was effective on and off the ball.

Brighton set up in a 3-5-2, which at times was turning into a 3-3-3-1 as the wing backs were pushing extremely high in and out of possession. The two wing-backs, Trossard and March, are actually wingers who were deployed as wing-backs by Potter to get more attacking output in the wider areas.

Brighton pressed United effectively, and their press was working because United were playing without a striker. In the image above, you can see how easy it is for the back three to deal with United’s attack as Dunk is free and doesn’t have to mark anyone while the wide center backs were keeping an eye on the isolated Rashford and Sancho.

Fred was being tightly marked by Lallana as United struggled to play out vertically. Due to the high positioning of Brighton’s wing-backs, Shaw and Dalot were hesitant to push forward, and when Shaw pushed higher, March was 1v1 against Maguire.

Overall, Brighton simply outplayed Manchester United tactically all over the pitch. Man United were outnumbered every time they tried to press Brighton. Brighton are famous for playing out from the back and beating the opposition’s press, and they did that excellently at Old Trafford.

What Did Eric Ten Hag Say Post-Match?

Speaking to Sky Sports, the United boss said, “It is definitely a setback, a real disappointment, but we have to deal with it “. “I knew from the start that it wouldn’t be easy, it’s a process and takes time, but we don’t have time. We have to win games, and we should have done better.

“I analyse it, and it was unnecessary. We gave too many easy balls away and the organisation was a big mistake. It was not the way we made it out, we made it clear how to deal with certain situations when we drop in. But that happens, we have to analyse and take the lessons from it.”

Speaking about Ronaldo and the second half, Ten Hag said, “I think so [desired Ronaldo impact?]. It was clear to see that the second half, we were better in midfield with (Christian) Eriksen down and Ronaldo up. Then we created, and (Marcus) Rashford had two really good chances. It’s a pity we didn’t score them for 2-2.”

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