Man Utd May Have Snatched the Win - But Their Defensive Display Against Brighton Is Cause for Concern

Leandro Trossard, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire
Man Utd's defence struggled against Brighton | Pool/Getty Images

Manchester United came into Saturday's clash with Brighton looking to pick up their first points of the season. At this stage, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been more focused on the result, rather than a complete performance as they looked to continue building match sharpness.

And this is exactly what he got.

Did Manchester United deserve to beat Brighton? No, they simply couldn't contend with the Seagulls' intensity and fluid attack. But they did pick up all three points....in the most dramatic way possible.

Not only did the Red Devils score the winner in the 100th minute through Bruno Fernandes, this goal was also scored after the full time whistle had been blown. It was dramatic, it was enthralling - but most importantly for Solskjaer, it was a win.

But the nature of the win shouldn't take away from the very unconvincing defensive display. Sure, it may have ended 3-2 in United's favour - but the reality is that Graham Potter's men could easily have scored five or six on another day.

No, that is not an exaggeration - they created that many opportunities. Giving credit where credit is due, Brighton were sublime, looking a constant threat each time they went forward. But the Man Utd defence simply hadn't a clue how to deal with their movement and nullify their threat.

Victor Lindelof, Leandro Trossard
Trossard was a threat all afternoon | Pool/Getty Images

Of course, there were already question marks over United's backline, with the spotlight shining particularly brightly on Victor Lindelof after his display against Crystal Palace on the opening weekend. Porto's Alex Telles has also been heavily linked in recent weeks as Solskjaer looks to strengthen at left-back as well.

There were already concerns, but Saturday's showing will only have increased the need to accelerate the plans to invest in the defence.

Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly were a nuisance all afternoon as they continued to drag both Lindelof and Harry Maguire out of position and into uncomfortable areas. As well as getting close and pinning the defenders, both forwards also drifted out wide before making late darting runs into the middle to cause confusion.

Neal Maupay, Fred
Maupay's movement caused plenty of problems | Pool/Getty Images

Their movement also created space for Leandro Trossard - who continued to pick up clever pockets of space. The Red Devils couldn't get anywhere near him all afternoon and he could have grabbed himself a hat-trick had he not seen three of his efforts crash against the woodwork.

Despite Maguire's best efforts to act as the leader at the back, there was a distinct lack of awareness and cohesion at the back. Instead, both full-backs were left with impossible tasks as they were made to choose between leaving a spare wing-back out wide or coming in-field to support the centre-backs.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka particularly struggled down the right as he opted to support Lindelof by shifting in-field - but his decision left Solly March wide open down the Brighton left.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Solly March
Wan-Bissaka struggled to close off the space | Pool/Getty Images

The defending in the build up to the penalty for the opener was hardly exceptional, but it was United's somewhat laughable defensive line for March's 95th minute equaliser which was particularly shambolic. All stood in a line, not one defender sensed the danger and looked to close down March, who was waiting to score.

Yes, Fernandes perhaps should have tracked the run, but he shouldn't have needed to be there, as the defence should have been more than capable of dealing with it had they been in the right line. After all, they were almost punished for a very similar scenario just ten minutes prior - lessons should have been learned.

But with all three defenders and Wan-Bissaka looking to defend the near post, it wasn't exactly a surprise that March was able to find space at the back post, was it? At least one of the defenders should have recognised the situation and taken charge, commanding the box by ensuring the line shifted over to stop March from having a free header.

Many United fans hoped Eric Bailly would start Saturday's clash after a strong display in the Carabao Cup last time out - but it was Lindelof who was once again given the nod. Whether or not Solskjaer gives Bailly a run in the team remains to be seen, but it's clear that the Premier League giants are in need of a commanding and quick centre-back to compliment Maguire.

The Red Devils were very fortunate to be awarded a penalty in the 100th minute of the game, but it goes without saying, they will not always get away with it when making so many defensive mistakes in one game.

The lack of composure and the inability to retain possession at the back provided Brighton with the platform they needed to take control - just like Crystal Palace did.

Man Utd's attack is lethal when on form, while they have the quality to unlock defences and control games with Fernandes and Paul Pogba in midfield. But they cannot possibly be expected to perform at their best when they are constantly playing on the back foot due to the defence's sloppiness.

United may have got away with it this time, but Brighton exposed all of their defensive deficiencies and should have found the net at least three or four more times. Solskjaer is keen to build a squad capable of challenging for titles and trophies, and they are heading in the right direction - but the defensive showing against Brighton emphasised precisely why reinforcements are required.

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