Brighton and Hove Albion spoiled Erik ten Hag's party as they dispatched Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford. It was a wide open game that saw strength and flaws from both sides. In a disappointing afternoon for the Red Devils, here are four things we learned.

  • Ten Hag's rebuild is going to take time

As most people know, Rome wasn't built in a day and Manchester United's rebuild is no different. It was a disappointing introduction to the Premier League, and for a lot of people, a reality check.

United's pre-season was positive and Ten Hag managed to prove to a lot of fans and critics alike what he was about. However, his first fixture in the Premier League left a lot to be desired. There were glimpses of his tactics being instilled into his players, with Diogo Dalot specifically popping up in midfield when the Red Devils were in possession. This created gaps in the midfield that United were able to exploit to create chances. 

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However, defensively United looked just as frail as usual. Brighton forward Danny Welbeck regularly caused Manchester United centre-back pairing Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez issues. The former United striker managed to find space in the channels and get in behind the defence. Unfortunately for Welbeck, it didn't quite happen for him in front of goal today. Despite this, he was arguably still the best player on the pitch.

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Scott McTominay and Fred both struggled immensely in midfield today, highlighting the need for the arrival of a midfielder. It is well documented that United have been chasing FC Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, however, it is clear he will not be enough to turn the Red Devil's fortunes around. Most fans can see that United desperately need a defensive midfielder, one that can replace the hole left by Nemanja Matic, and with potential target Ibrahim Sangare signing a new contract, it leaves United short of options.

There were positive signs for fans of the Mancunian club, but it will take time for them to hit the heights they were once at.

  • Brighton's good season last year was not a fluke

Seemingly typical of a Graham Potter Brighton side, The Seagulls came to Old Trafford and played with no fear. Throughout the first period, Brighton lined up in a 3-5-1-1, with wingers Leandro Trossard and Solly March playing as out and out forwards. Graham Potter's men pressed high forcing United's defenders into a number of mistakes.

Goalscorer Pascal Gross and fellow midfielders Adam Lallana and Alexis Mac Allister ran the show, not giving Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes a sniff. Alongside their brilliant defensive performance, the midfielders produced some excellent interplay in parts, as well as some elite level movement. Pascal Gross, particularly, popping up on the right-wing for his first goal and then the left-wing for his second. 

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Defensively, Lewis DunkJoel Veltman and Adam Webster thwarted what little threat United posed them. Lewis Dunk, especially, pulling off an excellent block to deny Lisandro Martinez of a dream debut goal. Other than Robert Sanchez's one lapse of concentration, that lead to the goal, Brighton didn't put a foot wrong at the back. It was a game to forget for the Spanish shot-stopper, but luckily for him his defence saved his blushes.

All of this leads towards another good season for The Seagulls, even with the loss of star left-back Marc Cucurella.

  • United need a striker

Erik ten Hag started the game with Christian Eriksen listed as their most forward player, however the Dane struggled to impact the game in that role. Following Brighton's two goal lead, Ten Hag took drastic action and introduced wantaway striker Cristiano Ronaldo into the fray. 

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Despite every United fan around the world calling for the introduction of the Portuguese forward, he did little to impact the result. With Frenchman Anthony Martial sidelined with injury, alongside his intermittent form, you can see why United are interested in Red Bull Salzburg starlet Benjamin Šeško​. Whether he would be enough to save a flailing attack remains to be seen, but the Red Devils are for sure lacking in quality in the final third.

Englishman Marcus Rashford squandered United's best chances missing a handful of guilt-edged opportunities. Jadon Sancho looked a shadow of the player we saw in pre-season and talismanic midfielder Bruno Fernandes missed perhaps United's best chance of the game, smashing over the bar early in the first-half. Without regular goals, it's hard to see United maintaining a proper top four push.

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Brighton recently sold Spanish left-back Marc Cucurella to London side Chelsea for a club record £62million. He was a key part of Brighton's season last year, scooping the clubs Player of the Year award at the end of the season. In his place, Graham Potter lined up with Belgian winger Leandro Trossard in the left-wing back position. 

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Trossard had an excellent game, finding striker Danny Welbeck on a number of occasions in promising positions. He also harried United's defenders into mistakes a number of times. A key example of this was his flashpoint with centre-back Harry Maguire that saw both of them pick up yellow cards. A moment that seemed to stick with Maguire, Trossard went onto get into a few more scuffles with United's captain. 

Cucurella was a key player for Brighton as we all know, but with Trossard starting and Ghanaian starlet Tariq Lamptey waiting in the wings, Brighton should be fine without the Spaniard.

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It was the perfect start to the season for the boys from the south coast, while it proved some glaring holes in the Manchester United side. However, there is a long way to go in the season and anything can happen. Unfortunately for United fans, it doesn't bode well at the moment. As for Brighton, The Seagulls look like they are going to be a problem for a lot of teams once again this season.