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The Media Review: Manchester United

How the newspapers and websites reported Saturday's stunning 4-0 success.

By Nick Szczepanik • 08 May 2022

By James Boardman
Albion celebrate in front of the North Stand after going 3-0 up.

For those of you – surely a minority – who have not already been out to buy a copy of every single Sunday paper, we can report that the football writers fortunate enough to be in the Amex press box for the match against Manchester United were unanimous in their praise of Graham Potter’s men and their performance in the club’s biggest Premier League victory.

Of course, many continued their season-long narrative of the decline and fall of one of British football’s great empires. After all, they know what sells papers to neutrals. But they were always pulled back into a purring appreciation of Albion’s football.

In the Sunday Telegraph, Jim White wrote that Albion were “magnificent, thoroughly enjoying their evisceration of a once proud institution. While United continue to fail to get a tune out of a bunch of players valued at millions, Potter smartly organises a bunch who collectively cost not much more than the car valet bill at Old Trafford. Such is his expert tuition, there was not one player in the United side who might find a place in his Brighton team.

“From the off his tactics were clear: chase, harry and smother. After no more than 15 minutes, it was an initiative which bore fruit. A cross came into the visitors’ area which Alex Telles headed directly up into the air. In the scramble that ensued, Pascal Gross fired a shot goalwards which Telles blocked. But the rebound found its way to Moises Caicedo lurking on the edge of the penalty area. The Ecuadorian midfielder who United once pursued, sent a grubber of a shot past David De Gea into the corner of the net. It was his first goal for Brighton and how he enjoyed it.

“It was no less than his team deserved: they were quicker, sharper than their visitors, constantly winning second balls. Not that it was hard. Caicedo and Yves Bissouma can rarely have faced such limp opposition in the midfield as they encountered here. Everywhere, to the delight of a boisterous home support, Brighton overran United. And, as United’s discomfort grew, how the home fans relished mocking their diminished condition. Especially when Cristiano Ronaldo was involved, cheering him spearing a free kick high with particular gusto.

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Potter: We owed the fans that win

“The truth was, as Brighton cut them apart, the offside flag was United’s most effective defensive weapon. Certainly a lot better than Telles or the hapless Diogo Dalot.”

Riath Al-Samarrai introduced a clever local angle into his intro for the Mail on Sunday: “Three decades after he went to university in these parts, Ralf Rangnick is still looking for answers. Answers for why the tune he orchestrates is so consistently awful and answers on just how low Manchester United must go before they bounce. Truly, they were as atrocious as Brighton were brilliant.

“Brighton, for all their style and quality, are hardly known for free-scoring abandon. Quite the opposite, and here they could have had six or seven with better bounces. That they found it so easy was down in part to United's mind-numbing inability to perform the most elementary aspects of defending – see the first goal – and also their failure to show any pride in their work – see the second and third. By the fourth, even the VAR fancied a laugh at their expense.

“But beyond that incompetence, and figures for conceding which now rank as their worst since 1979, we must look to Brighton. And to Graham Potter. If only Brighton had a reliable striker, they would be in a European place; it is a measure of how well they have done without one that they still might.

“They were simply immense, a group of players showing what is possible with the correct organisation and motivation. United's hierarchy must view them as peculiar organisms from another planet.

“The plan, as best anyone can ever tell with United these days, was for Mata to serve as the main line of supply with his subtle service through the middle. The problem is that once more none of it worked. In this instance, that was predominantly down to the work of Caicedo, who either side of his goal muffled Mata into insignificance. It was similar in design to the suffocation job performed by Yves Bissouma on Son Heung-Min in Brighton's win at Tottenham last month.”

Nathan Ridley put more flesh on the bones of the Caicedo story on the Mirror website. “Next time someone wants another club to take notice when they're playing against them, look no further than Brighton's Moises Caicedo,” he wrote. “Having openly admitted that his dream to play for the Red Devils, the 20-year-old showed his boyhood club exactly what he could do with his 15th-minute opener.

“After only making his maiden Premier League appearance for the Seagulls 28 days ago, the midfielder has shone in his five starts since. The Ecuadorian is one to watch at this year's World Cup but could have been a familiar name to United fans more than a year ago.

“Last January, the Red Devils pulled out of a deal with Independiente del Valle after negotiations, described as a 'cluster****', became too complex, according to the Manchester Evening News. But United's loss was Brighton's gain, as Graham Potter and co won the race by paying £4million.

“Despite making a double substitution at half-time to introduce Fred and Edinson Cavani, the 20-time champions of England came out for the second half as they ended the first: abysmally. Brighton full-back Marc Cucurella found space in the inside-left channel and fired into the roof of the net past a dumbfounded De Gea.

“The Spaniard's strike was his first goal for the club at the end of an impressive first campaign after joining from Getafe. Cucurella, who came through at Barcelona, has been touted as one of the Premier League's best left-backs this term and it's hard to argue otherwise.

“While his usual duties come in the form of defending and keeping possession, the 23-year-old demonstrated his eye for goal on this occasion and wheeled away in an emotional celebration, condemning the Red Devils to their worst season for goals conceded in the Premier League era.”

Tom Barclay, the Sun’s Albion specialist, joined in the appreciation of Caicedo and Cucurella. “Ecuadorian midfielder Caicedo was a Red Devils target back in December 2020 when playing for Independiente del Valle in his home country. But they failed to complete what was said to be a complicated deal and a month later, Albion swooped.

“It is not as if the 20-year-old was an instant success, as he did his time in the Seagulls’ Under-23s and then had an underwhelming loan earlier this term in Belgium with Beerschot. But since winning a place in Potter’s starting XI during the win at Arsenal at the start of last month, he has been a revelation.

“Now he looks to be yet another star-in-the-making in Brighton’s squad, joining the likes of Tariq Lamptey, Yves Bissouma, Robert Sanchez and more rough diamonds Potter has polished up.

“Big-haired Cucurella, who was in tears after firing in the second early in the second half, could well be the pick of the bunch. The left-back’s signing for £15million from Getafe last summer has to go down as one of the smartest pieces of business in the Premier League this term. And it would be no surprise at all if bigger clubs did not come calling soon enough for the 23-year-old – not that Albion would want to sell.

“Caicedo got the ball rolling inside 15 minutes. He brilliantly controlled a blocked shot before finding the corner with a low, drilled effort from outside the area which nutmegged Scott McTominay AND Victor Lindelof.

“United old-boy Danny Welbeck should have doubled the lead when a horror touch from Raphael Varane played him in, but the striker’s first-time lob went over the bar.

“Rangnick brought on Edinson Cavani and Fred at the break. Yet his side were further behind in mere minutes of the restart. Trossard picked up Mac Allister’s low cross on the left-hand side of the box and cut it back to Cucurella who dispatched it into the top corner. The defender held up his hands into a heart shape in celebration and looked to be crying.

“United’s impressive travelling support will have felt like doing the same as they watched their side pitifully collapse.”

Simon Mail took up the tale in the Observer. “The Amex Stadium was rocking and United were on extremely shaky ground,” he wrote. “It took 55 minutes for United’s first shot on target but Juan Mata’s volley floated straight into the arms of Sánchez.

“Brighton compounded United’s misery with their third goal after Trossard played in Gross and the midfielder calmly sidefooted the ball past De Gea.

“It got even worse for the visitors when Diogo Dalot’s clearance was chested into the net by Trossard for Brighton’s fourth goal. It was checked by VAR for a possible handball but there was absolutely no respite for United.

“Alexis Mac Allister was denied a fifth Brighton goal with his shot deflected on to the post by Dalot. Welbeck almost added another goal late on – his shot drifted past the post – but this was a five-star performance from Brighton and another hugely painful blow for this sorry United team.”

In the Sunday Times, Paul Rowan gave “full credit to Brighton, who were marking the 25th anniversary of the year they left the Goldstone Ground and came within one game of falling out of the Football League. Their long- suffering fans will not have had many better days than this in the interim.

“It was a day when all the good work of Graham Potter and his players came together, with United unable to cope with the threat of the home side’s wing backs, Cucurella and Solly March.

“United were awful to a man in the first half, but Telles had a particularly rough time at left back, where March and Gross were ganging up on him and his team-mates appeared indifferent to his plight. For Brighton, Cucurella and Trossard were almost as effective on the other flank.

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Cucurella: Dunky shouts at me a lot!

“United’s half was summed up by Cristiano Ronaldo blasting the ball over the bar from a promising free-kick position in the 39th minute and the United legend reacted somewhat petulantly to an awful pass from Nemanja Matic when he slid in on Lewis Dunk and was rightfully booked shortly before the break.

“In the 48th minute Telles was again floundering as he failed to stop a cross coming in from the left. The ball flashed across the goal and was picked up by Trossard, who slipped the ball to Cucurella. The unmarked left wingback smacked the ball into the net, beating De Gea all ends up at his near post.

“Ronaldo gave a wry smile, but for United it would only get worse over the next 12 minutes. In the 58th minute, the Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sánchez sprayed the ball long to Cucurella, who found Trossard in the penalty area and, as United stood off, the ball was then fed to Gross, who coolly glided past Varane and picked his spot in the corner of the net.

“Two minutes later, on the hour mark, it was four when Welbeck’s goalbound chip was acrobatically cleared by Diogo Dalot, but the ball rebounded off Trossard and into the net. It looked as though the ball came off Trossard’s arm, but VAR failed to overturn the decision.”

Finally, Ed Elliott of the Press Association wrote that “A stunning victory for rampant Brighton was a first in nine games on home soil, dating back to Boxing Day, to boost their hopes of a first Premier League top-half finish.

“United were bullied from the outset and it did not take long for chants against the club’s owners to emerge from the travelling support.

“Brighton’s boisterous fans created a carnival atmosphere and were clearly determined to enjoy the penultimate home game of their club’s finest Premier League season.” 

And we certainly did.