The home crowd, eager to see their club put a disastrous finish to last season behind them, was surprised by Pascal Gross’ two goals in the first half.
However, Graham Potter’s team outplayed United in that first half as they defeated them 4-0 at the Amex Stadium in May on their route to their highest-ever ninth-place Premier League finish.
Although United threatened a comeback when Alexis Mac Allister turned the ball into his net after a scramble inside the visitor’s box ended with goalkeeper Robert Sanchez having touched the ball into his path under pressure from Harry Maguire, even the second-half introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo could stop Brighton.
This result was significant since Brighton had only secured one draw in their previous nine league trips.
Ten Hag said, “This game shouldn’t have been lost.
“I believe we got off to a strong start, but after [the first goal], we lost confidence, dropped a level, and made errors that the opposition took advantage of.
However, they have a strong working relationship, and you pay for it when you make errors against such teams. I believe they are a good opponent.
Before the game began, there was a feeling of excitement surrounding United since the sun was shining and a new manager had been hired.
Ten Hag has begun to impose his personality on the team to the point that he kicked several members of the “prawn-sandwich brigade” out of their corporate hospitality suites so that his players may eat before the game.
But so many of the earlier problems persisted. Before the game, there were demonstrations against the United owners; thus, the club store had to be closed.
Avie Glazer, co-chairman, was at the club for a rare visit and would have heard the chants to his left urging him to remove his family from the club.
Despite good debuts from Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez, there was little coordination on the field.
Brighton, who was agile and well-drilled, profited. Within 15 seconds of the game’s beginning, Leandro Trossard volleyed into the side-netting, and until it was much too late, United struggled to exert any dominance.
Welbeck’s run separated Maguire and Martinez in the first frame. When the latter crossed across from the left to cover the cross, a wide opening was created in the six-yard box, and Gross was left on his own to tap in at the far post as United’s defence rushed to close the holes.
When Solly March cut inside and fired a low shot that goalkeeper David de Gea deflected in his direction, he was in a position identical to that but on the other post.
The halftime whistle was met with predicted and well-deserved jeers. Ronaldo had been added eight minutes after the game resumed to attempt and lead a rescue operation.
The 37-year-old made hardly any difference. Diogo Dalot, another Portuguese, was responsible for the miscommunication that allowed United to score. However, Brighton seemed more likely to achieve again as the game ended.