EPL

'First half was Mr Hyde; second half Dr Jekyll' – Rangnick praises Man Utd improvement in Brighton win

By Sports Desk February 15, 2022

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick praised his side's marked second-half improvement during the win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Without a win in three matches across all competitions, the Red Devils were booed off by the Old Trafford faithful following a goalless first half.

The hosts registered just three shots on goal to their opponents’ eight during the opening 45 minutes, while enjoying only 41 per cent of possession.

However, the pendulum swung in their favour early in the second half, Cristiano Ronaldo breaking the deadlock with his first goal of 2022 before Lewis Dunk was dismissed for bringing down Anthony Elanga.

Bruno Fernandes sealed the points deep into stoppage time with his fourth goal in as many Premier League appearances against Brighton.

"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

"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."

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    Erik Ten Hag insisted he was not embarrassed but admitted Manchester United “got away with it” after edging past Championship Coventry on penalties in their FA Cup semi-final.

    The Premier League outfit were given an almighty scare at Wembley on Sunday as the second-tier side fought back from 3-0 down and then had a late extra-time winner disallowed for a marginal offside.

    A thrilling contest ended 3-3 after 120 minutes and it was United who ultimately prevailed, 4-2 on spot-kicks, to set up a repeat of last year’s final against rivals Manchester City.

    It was another highly unconvincing performance by United – which may have increased the pressure on under-fire manager Ten Hag – but the Dutchman tried to highlight the positives.

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    “I see we can play in very high levels but in the same match we can also go very low. That’s not explainable. It has to do with managing the game.

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    United had looked to be cruising past an apparently inferior opponent as they opened up a handsome lead with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

    Yet the Sky Blues, who are eighth in the Championship, pulled one back through Ellis Simms on 71 minutes and then threw caution to the wind.

    Callum O’Hare pulled another back with a deflected strike and Haji Wright sent the game into extra time with a stoppage-time penalty after handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

    Both sides hit the bar in extra time before Victor Torp thought he had snatched a dramatic winner in the closing minutes, only for VAR to rule Wright fractionally offside in the build-up.

    Despite the heartbreaking manner of the loss, Sky Blues manager Mark Robins insisted there was no feeling of injustice.

    The former United striker said: “If it’s the right call, it’s the right call. I think he was a toenail offside, which is disappointing. Had he cut his toenail, we wouldn’t be talking about penalties.

    “This FA Cup run will be spoken about, certainly in Coventry City circles, for a long, long time.

    “Whilst I’m disappointed for everybody, we can’t be too down about it. We’ve gone toe to toe with Manchester United, come back from 3-0 down and almost won it with a fourth, then lost it in a shoot-out, which can happen.

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    Thereafter chaos reigned among Ten Hag’s defence as they clung on perilously to their lead, until three minutes into stoppage time Wan-Bissaka handled inside the box, giving Haji Wright the chance to write one of the great FA Cup stories from the penalty spot.

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    The Gunners’ plight was arguably worse as they were also in Europe on Wednesday night but had to travel back from Germany on Thursday following their Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

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