Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in 2022 to end his six-game scoreless streak, which helps Manchester United on their way to a much-needed 2-0 win against 10-man Brighton & Hove Albion.
Manchester United interim Manager, Ralf Rangnick urged his Jekyll and Hyde team to show their better side in Tuesday’s rearranged Premier League encounter, following three draws at half-time with they lead in their last three matches.
In the first half, those calls fell on deaf ears as the incoherent United were dominated by Brighton, only for a Ronaldo goal and Lewis Dunk’s red card to alter the course of the game.
After Bruno Fernandes’ stoppage-time strike, Rangnick moved up to fourth place, but Rangnick will know their Champions League rivals have games in hand over a side that remains unimpressive over 90 minutes.
In a first half that saw David De Gea superbly deny Jakub Moder, Potter’s Seagulls were booed at the halftime whistle for their effort.
Things changed shortly after the restart when Ronaldo scored his first goal of 2022. Moments later, Anthony Elanga’s pace caught out Dunk, and referee Peter Bankes’ decision to send Dunk off was overturned.
United had a number of great chances to wrap up victory, with Moder rattling the bar and Danny Welbeck heading over before Fernandes settled nerves in stoppage time.
“First half was Mr Hyde; second half Dr Jekyll – and for a change, [the result] was different,” Rangnick said.
“In the end, it was important to get the three points against an in-form team. Brighton are very possession-based, full of confidence, and we had to take more risks in the second half; it paid off.
“In the first 10 minutes of the second half, we had more success moments, and it raised the crowd; they were not moaning and were getting behind the team.
Below is the video of Cristiano Ronaldo first goal in 2022:
“We scored the goal and got the red card. It should have been 3-0, 4-0 after 75 minutes, but there is a bit of lack of assuredness in front of goal.”
United also registered their second clean sheet in three home Premier League games – as many as they managed in the previous 18 – but did so without Raphael Varane, who pulled out of the starting line-up due to illness.
Addressing the defender’s situation, Rangnick revealed: “On the way from the hotel after dinner and team meeting, he had stomach problems.
“We were hoping to get rid of it with medication, but he did not feel well and that is why we played with Victor Lindelof instead.”
Victory lifted United above West Ham and back into the top four of the Premier League table.
David de Gea, who made several smart saves to keep Brighton at bay, revealed his team-mates’ delight at getting back to winning ways, but feels they should be in a stronger position than they are.
“It is great always when you have the three points, especially after we drew the last few games,” the goalkeeper said. “We are all very happy.
“We knew that Brighton is one of the teams that play very well with the ball, press very good and, for me, it is a very good team.
“We pressed high in the second half. We controlled the game after the red card and there was a five-minute spell when they came back.
“We should be fighting for more things than the top four, but that is the reality. There are many teams fighting for the same position and with the quality we have, we should win a lot of points.”
Manchester United travels to Leeds United in the EPL on Sunday, while Brighton hosts Burnley on Saturday.