Brighton thrashed Manchester United 4-0 at the Amex Stadium to ensure the visitors will finish the season with their worst points total in the Premier League era.
The humiliating loss on the south coast means Ralf Rangnick’s side can no longer match the 64 points they achieved in the 2013/14 campaign as the German’s spell in interim charge before he hands over the reins to Erik ten Hag hit a new low.
A Moises Caicedo strike early in the first half (15) was added to after the break by goals from Marc Cucurella (49), Pascal Gross (57) and Leandro Trossard (60) as Brighton, who had not won at home since Boxing Day, remain on course for their highest top-flight finish.
Brighton: Sanchez (7), Veltman (7), Dunk (7), Cucurella (8), March (7), Bissouma (7), Caicedo (8), Trossard (8), Gross (8), Mac Allister (7), Welbeck (7).
Subs: Webster (6), Lamptey (6), Maupay (6).
Man Utd: De Gea (5), Dalot (5), Lindelof (5), Varane (5), Telles (5), McTominay (5), Matic (4), Fernandes (5), Mata (4), Elanga (5), Ronaldo (4).
Subs: Cavani (5), Fred (5), Maguire (5) .
Man of the match: Moises Caicedo.
After defeats at Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal before this, United have now lost five consecutive Premier League away games. It is their longest such run since a string of six between December 1980 and March 1981.
When asked if the performance in his penultimate game was the worst of his tenure, Rangnick told Sky Sports: “Yes it was, from the first to the last minute.
“Not enough in all important areas. We were second best. We can only apologise to the supporters. It was a terrible performance and a humiliating defeat.”
How Brighton embarrassed Man Utd
Brighton took control of the game from the first whistle and deservedly took the lead in the 15th minute through Caicedo. The 20-year-old, who had been linked with a move to United before signing for Brighton at the beginning of 2021, took advantage of the ball ricocheting off Alex Telles to tuck a low drive inside the post from the edge of the area. It was the Ecuador international’s first goal for the club and the start of a memorable afternoon.
Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick named an unchanged side following Monday night’s 3-0 win over Brentford at Old Trafford.
Captain Harry Maguire returned to the squad after recovering from a knee injury. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was also among the substitutes.
Brighton head coach Graham Potter made one change to his side after last weekend’s 3-0 victory at Wolves.
Enock Mwepu was replaced in the starting line-up by Pascal Gross.
Former United forward Danny Welbeck had a chance to make it 2-0 just before the break, but his lofted effort over the stranded David de Gea after Raphael Varane’s poor touch had too much power and cleared the crossbar.
When Cristiano Ronaldo, two goals away from 700 in his club career, blasted a free-kick from distance into the stands during a half that saw United fail to register a shot on target, a carnival atmosphere for the home fans at the Amex had well and truly begun.
United boss Rangnick responded by bringing on Edinson Cavani and Fred in place of Nemanja Matic and Anthony Elanga for the second period, but Brighton’s dominance continued.
It took less than four minutes for the hosts to double their lead when Cucurella scored his first Brighton goal by firing into the roof of the net from close range after a Leandro Trossard cutback. Pascal Gross then got in on the act eight minutes later when a fluid move ended in the German steering a precise shot past De Gea into the far corner from inside the box.
With an hour on the clock, Trossard completed the rout when Diogo Dalot’s clearance off the line bounced off his chest and into the United net – the goal given after a VAR check for handball.
Brighton continued to pick holes in the United defence, going close when Dalot diverted a ball heading to Alexis Mac Allister onto the post before Welbeck went close again late on with a strike from 25 yards.
United attempted to fight back but a strong goalkeeping performance from Robert Sanchez kept them out, including a smart stop to deny Bruno Fernandes.
The visitors did manage to put the ball in the back of the net, but Edinson Cavani, who is set to leave the club on a free transfer, was clearly offside when he poked home after Harry Maguire flashed a ball across the goalmouth.
United have now conceded 56 goals in the Premier League this season, their worst defensive record in a single campaign in the competition.
The result means it is now mathematically impossible for sixth-placed United to qualify for the Champions League, as they sit five points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal with one game left to play.
Brighton are ninth, five points off a Europa Conference League spot with two matches remaining.
After apologising to Manchester United supporters for the defeat, Ralf Rangnick admitted his decision to switch to a 4-4-2 formation in the second half was “too much of a risk”.
“We gave them too much time, too much space,” he told Sky Sports. “We couldn’t get into a position to stop them playing through our lines. The game plan was completely different. We told the players to be as compact as possible and then to release pressure on them. We couldn’t stop them.
“I don’t think the players ignored the game plan but they weren’t able to stop them. We gave them too much space and time. When you give technically good players this space, this is what can happen.
“In the second half we took the risk to bring on Cavani to play as a second striker, but in hindsight it was too much of a risk to play in a 4-4-2 against them but we had to change the energy. Today we were second best.”
Manchester United’s supporters packed out the away end at the Amex but their anger towards the team was easy to hear after their side conceded the fourth goal, chanting en masse: “You’re not fit to wear the shirt.”
When asked about the chanting, captain for the day Bruno Fernandes agreed with the supporters.
He told Sky Sports: “What we did, and by myself, was not enough to be in a Manchester United shirt. I accept that. It is not good enough.
“They outplayed us. They always had a solution. Pressed us better and they deserved the result.
“A little bit of everything went wrong. Quality. Mentality. They deserved to win and we deserve to be in the position we are in now.”
Potter hails fantastic win | Dunk: A special day
Having guided Brighton to their best season in the Premier League since promotion in 2017, Graham Potter was delighted to give the club’s supporters a first home win since Boxing Day.
He told Sky Sports: “It was nice to give the supporters a performance and a memory, so we’re delighted.
“We played well from the start and I thought we were the better team. The boys did everything they could in terms of what we asked them to do.
“They defended well, pressed well, created some danger and were brave on the ball. It was a fantastic performance.
“We’re on 47 points now, which is an improvement. We’re really happy.”
Brighton captain Lewis Dunk said: “It is a special day. United are a top side and we’ve let our home fans down this season, so it was a nice moment.”
Man of the match: Moises Caicedo
On this showing, it is easy to see why Manchester United were interested in signing Moises Caicedo before his move to the Amex last year.
The 20-year-old set the tempo for Brighton all afternoon, producing a calm display in the middle of the pitch to prevent the visitors from ever getting a foothold in the game.
It was a mature performance from the Ecuador international, whose impressive first goal for the club could be a sign of things to come.
“He’s got the quality, he’s got the ability to score,” Potter said. It’s just getting in the right place and thankfully today he did. It was a great finish.
“He’s been amazing since he’s been in the team and I’m really happy for him.”
Opta stats: Man Utd’s season hits new low
- This defeat leaves Manchester United on 58 points with just one Premier League game remaining this season, guaranteeing that 2021/22 will see their lowest points total in a campaign in the competition (previously 64 in 2013/14).
- Manchester United have conceded 56 goals in the Premier League this season, their most in a single league campaign since 1978-79 (63).
- Manchester United have lost five consecutive away league games for the first time since March 1981 under Dave Sexton (run of six).
- This was Brighton’s biggest top-flight win in their history, in what was their 356th match at this level.
Brighton travel to Leeds in their penultimate Premier League game of the season on May 15 (kick-off 2pm). They then finish the campaign at home to West Ham seven days later (kick-off 4pm).
Manchester United have one match remaining of the Ralf Rangnick era. They travel to Crystal Palace on May 22 (kick-off 4pm).