Amex Stadium witnessed a late drama where Manchester United struggled against Brighton & Hove Albion to secure their first three points of the season. A match full of action and the seesaw game was finally settled by a late penalty awarded to Manchester United post a  VAR check after the final whistle. The penalty was beautifully converted in the top right corner by Bruno Fernandes. Brighton & Hove Albion too had a deserving late goal in the stoppage time and almost sealed a point for their efforts, but a late penalty conceded by Neal Maupay’s handball from a United corner ruined their dominating performance.
Coming into this Premier League fixture, Brighton had won three of their last four home league games against Manchester United, though they did lose this exact fixture 0-3 last season. The Seagulls were looking to pick up back-to-back league wins for the first time since November 2019 but they managed to hit the woodwork five times in this game from their 18 attempts on United’s goal. Brighton lacked the final output to cross the line and earn those deserving three points. The tactical analysis of this match will bring up the flaws in Manchester United’s defending. They failed to implement any defensive tactics for this game. Also, highlighting the analysis of Brighton’s failure to take chances in the final third and the advantage of United’s out of position defenders.

 

Lineups

Graham Potter sticks with the same players of the team that comprehensively beat Newcastle 3-0 on Sunday with an enforced change as Adam Lallana replaces the suspended midfielder, Yves Bissouma. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes three changes to the side that lost to Crystal Palace on their opening day of the season. Ole reverted back to his strongest lineup with these changes that romped to a 3-0 victory at the Amex Stadium back in June. Aaron Wan-Bissaka replaces Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Nemanja Matic for Scott McTominay, and Mason Greenwood for Daniel James. The only summer signing Donny van de Beek starts on the bench for the second Premier League game.
Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

Manchester United’s play

United’s attacking style saw a lot of switching in the forward positions. Marcus Rashford was switching flanks with Mason Greenwood. Rashford also switched position with Anthony Martial at times to take up the center position. Bruno Fernandes also was observed on the left flank when United committed both Martial and Rashford to the center forward positions in search of a goal. United’s play saw Matic dropping as a pivot in between the two center-backs. Someone from the top either Bruno, Greenwood, or Rashford will drop to support Pogba in the midfield. The strategy was to get pass Brighton’s defense with quick passing and link-up play.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

It shows how Matic, playing as a pivot drops between two center-backs forming a 3-3-1-2 formation with two full-backs spreading wide to attack from flanks. Bruno is dropping to support but Pogba here tries a loop pass to find the run of Rashford who is in advance center forward position.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

This is another example where Matic drops between Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof to start the buildup play. Greenwood and Bruno dropping to support Pogba. Martial and Rashford higher up the pitch to receive any long balls and to take Brighton’s high line backward and create space in the center and wide areas.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

Again, in this match, Brighton was punished with a quick counter-attack. It was similar to the goal Brighton conceded last time they faced Ole’s side. Bruno was quick to realise the opportunity for a quick counter-attack and was precise with the through ball to Rashford who collect it and went on to score second for Manchester United. Brighton was punished for committing too many men forward.

Lack of intent and tactics in United’s defensive plans

United hardly was seen with a defensive plan to stop the attacking and counter-attacking football of Brighton. The Red Devils lacked intent in pressing higher up the pitch. Their forward players hardly made efforts of counter-pressing or blocking and marking players. The seagulls had an easy route without any pressure to build their game and enter the final third on numerous occasions to create chances to break United’s defense line. United’s defenders were caught out of position many times by quick counter-attacking of Brighton. They offered them plenty of space in wide areas and failed to close down to either block the cross or shots.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tacticsSteven Alzate can easily pass to any of the players around him. There is hardly any defender pressing on him or on his teammates. Bruno is casual in not pressing or blocking a pass towards any other Brighton players. Bruno should have pressed towards Alzate in an angle that blocks his pass towards Lallana. This lack of intent from Red Devils while defending allowed Brighton players to easily keep moving forward.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

Leandro Trossard is gifted plenty of space and time to take a shot at Goal. Four United players were just spectators with neither of them blocking or charging on him. The huge gap between Maguire and Lindelof as the shot easily passes between them as both fail to block the incoming shot. Luckily United survived as the shot hit the near post.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics
Never learned from their mistake, another shot of Trossard passes between Maguire and Lindelof. This time Trossard goes for the far post but again it hits the post. Neither Maguire nor Lindelof takes the initiative to close down or tackle in order to block the shot. There is a complete lack of communication and understanding between the two center-backs of Manchester United.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

Looking at the positions of the United players, it highlighted the indisciplined and unorganized structure of United’s defence. Back four of United were completely out of their position with Maguire and Wan-Bissaka both marking Aaron Connolly. Solly March was left free by Wan-Bissaka and in plenty of space to take the shot. Again, United was fortunate as March hits the post and missed the chance to equalize.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

Another evidence of poor defending by United. The same mistake was repeated by the United defenders again and again. Wan- BIssaka again leaving March free and vulnerable to concede a goal. No pressure on Trossard by Bruno and he easily puts that ball in a vacant area for March. Also, there is an improper shape of the back four. All this shows a lack of intent in defending by the United players.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics
Again the same mistake and again March is left free by Wan- BIssaka. Here, March is free and Unmarked in the penalty area. Similar scenarios can be seen in the 79the minute and 95th minute too. It is finally in the 95th minute that unmarked March scores a free header to make the scores level.

Brighton’s quick attacking football

Brighton attacked in a 3-4-2-1 shape where they looked to attack United from wide areas. They were effective in using their wing-backs as Tariq Lamptey won the penalty and Solly March equalizing in the final stoppage time. Leandro Trossgard troubled United from the center but managed a hattrick of hitting the post, just an inch away from scoring 3 times. Playing with three center-backs and two center midfielders, Brighton was easily able to transit into attacking areas as United lacked intent in pressing and closing down their attack.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

This is how Brighton shaped in their build-up looking to exploit United from wide areas. Lamptey and March provide that liberty to Brighton change formation and transform to 3-2-4-1 from 3-4-2-1 in the final third. Alzate and Lallana, the two center midfielders stayed together and were able to easily move the ball forward due to lack of pressing from United players.

Brighton’s counter-pressing

Brighton defended by pressing higher up the pitch and attacked quickly on regaining possession. Counter-pressing and counter-attacking was the way with which Brighton played in this match. At times, Lamptey and March were seen dropping back to support the defense by forming five at the backline. However, Brighton was punished on the counter-attack too by Rashford’s skills post a glorious through ball from Fernandes. Brighton lacked in defending set-pieces as they conceded other goals from set-piece errors.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

This shows the counter-pressing of Brighton players in order to win the ball higher up the pitch and attack quickly. Neal Maupay pressing on Lindelof, Alzate on Pogba, and March on Wan-Bisakka. This resulted in Maupay blocking Lindelof’s long ball and resulting in a throw-in to United.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

Another attempt of counter-pressing of Brighton player. Here, Trossard pressing on Shaw and Lamptey pressing on Bruno. Shaw and Bruno managed to escape pressing of these two with beautiful link-up play. But Ben White joined the pressing and he came to the rescue to clear the ball away from Bruno.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics

When United are in control of the game and looking to attack, it can be observed that Lamptey and March falling deep to form a 5 at the back-formation.  This gives them depth in defending and making it difficult for United attackers to penetrate in their box.

Premier League 2020/21: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United - tactical analysis tactics
Another example of falling back in numbers to defend. Again, forming 5 at the back-formation to defend a United attack here.

Conclusion

It was an alarm for Manchester United to work out things and improve on many areas in order to move up in the Premier League. There is a need for urgency and reinforcement for United to step up and close the gap between their rivals. If they don’t take this wake-up call seriously, they will be seen struggling in the league against tough opponents. Brighton had a good game and they showed intent to keep attacking and moving forward. They should continue to play in the same fashion and move away from this unfortunate defeat to Manchester United.