Manchester United moved through to the next round of the League Cup with a comfortable, professional win at Brighton.
Scott McTominay and Juan Mata scored before a deflected Paul Pogba secured a 3-0 win that was fairly flattering for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
The first half was dull but more comfortable than the tumultuous game at the weekend. That was certainly due to the changes – United’s only true opening in the earlier exchanges came from a smart interchange between Williams and Mata, who created a chance for Ighalo, but the on-loan striker fired wide from the angle.
The Nigerian is most certainly likeable but retaining his services has seen a swing, particularly since the sport resumed in June. He has gone from impact forward to stop-gap placeholder and that is not only a shame for him, it’s yet another indictment of the transfer policy considering he was only ever meant to serve as a temporary emergency player following the departures of Lukaku and Sanchez.
With the existing concern that United play more like individuals and less than a unit, the performance did little to dispel the idea that such a feeling runs through the club. Combinations looked awkward and there was no fluency.
It was going to need an individual spark of inspiration and it came just before half-time when Mata cleverly used his body to win a free-kick. He took it from wide right – and his delivery was magnificent, quality which was matched by Scott McTominay’s fine header at the back post.
— D9INE | Pogba back ⚡️ (@D9INE_ELITE_8) September 30, 2020
Once more Graham Potter would have had cause to lament his team’s luck, though once again he could not complain about anything other than the clinical nature of the sport.
Brighton needed to show ambition in the second half. Trossard – so unlucky at the weekend – was brought on and immediately cursed his fortunes when the impressive Dean Henderson saved well.
United were stung into action. Van De Beek’s classy flick put through Mata and the Spaniard delayed his finish before rolling the ball into the net.
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Solskjaer brought on Pogba and Rashford. After the latter had won a free-kick with a menacing dribble, the former stepped up to strike; the shot was deflected on target and in off the post to round off a win which was decidedly more straightforward than at the weekend.
FT: Brighton 0-3 #MUFC
What a way to end the night 😍 pic.twitter.com/y6sXCqzxsN
— UtdXclusive🔴 (@UtdXclusive) September 30, 2020
It was standard fare with many changes for this competition. If there were notes to make it was interesting to see Harry Maguire rested as one would think Bailly and Lindelof were effectively pitted against each other in an audition. If it was, Bailly would get the part.
Van De Beek’s agent has reportedly made some curious remarks but he certainly needs minutes so it was not too controversial. Diogo Dalot was out from the cold and it seemed like a shop window performance. Win or lose, though, it’s always tough to criticise for changes in such a secondary competition.
Dan James had a disappointing evening. One almost hopes the rumoured move for a winger comes off only to take the pressure off the youngster – and also to see what a year spent with Bielsa might do.
Van de Beek 6