MAN UNITED 2, BRIGHTON 1
Ole Solskjaer continues to write his name in the history of Manchester United and the Premier League.
The Norwegian made it seven straight wins since becoming interim manager to surpass the previous best-ever start that was by Sir Matt Busby.
Ironically there was one minute’s applause before kick off to mark the 25th anniversary of his passing.
Solskjaer’s six straight league wins equalled the best-ever starts by a manager in the Premier League as he joined Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola at neighbours City.
It looked as though it would be a routine win as United opened a 2-0 first-half lead through goals from Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, the latter on his 150th appearance for the Reds.
But it proved anything but that as United stopped playing in the second period and, after Pascal Gross halved the deficit with 18 minutes left it was a nervy finish as the Seagulls sensed they could take something from the game.Embed from Getty Images
Solskjaer said: “We made it more difficult than it should be in the last 20 minutes.
“Sometimes you make it hard work. We played some great stuff at times. At the start of the second half we could have finished the game with great chances. But in any game of football you are never sure until it’s over.
“In the last 20 minutes we were in trouble. They do dig deep. The boys showed against Tottenham and today that we don’t give up and there’s a great team spirit. You can’t always play fantasy football. At times we did and it’s a great three points.
“Today we were tested. I didn’t think we played the game out as we should have. That’s perhaps the next challenge for the boys.
“The last month has been fantastic. It’s one of those things. It is real now. To be fair, it does feel like coming home. I do feel at home and I really enjoy it.”
Solskjaer believed Rashford is playing the best football of his career.
And when asked if he is the best striker in the Premier League on current form, he said: “Nobody beats him on work rate, attitude and nobody is better than him in front of goal.
“And with Harry Kane injured, that is one of the top players out of the way.
“What a finish from Marcus. The way he finished it off. It is great working with him. That was his 150th game, I think he has scored more than a couple of the legends we have so he has a great future ahead of him.
“What I like the most is to get into their heads and find out what they are thinking. He is so calm and assured when he is finishing. That was the first thing I said to him when I met him. He had missed some chances and I said ‘no problem, you’ll be alright, just settle down a little bit’.”
Brighton manager Chris Hughton pointed to his side’s failings, explaining: “I was disappointed by the manner of the goal we conceded and needed a little more quality in the final third.
“We lost 1-0 to Liverpool last week and 2-1 to a United side in very good form and conceded a penalty in both of those games.”
Solskjaer initially named the same starting line-up from the one that won at Tottenham on Sunday.
However, an injury to Luke Shaw in the warm up saw Diogo Dalot drafted in at left back with Matteo Darmian replacing him on the bench.
In a remarkably open start to the game, Pogba and Victor Lindelof had chances for United while Jurgen Locadia and Shane Duffy had efforts easily saved by David De Gea.
United began to crank up the pressure as Marcus Rashford had an effort headed off the line and Pogba’s spectacular overhead kick was deflected for a corner.
And they were rewarded with a 27th minute lead with a penalty that was won and converted by Pogba for his 10th goal of the season.
Pogba cut in from the right and was nudged off the ball by left-back Gaetan Bong.
Anthony Martial was denied a second goal after bursting through on goal only to be denied by a super block from keeper David Button.
United doubled their advantage three minutes before the break following a fabulous solo effort from Rashford, his fifth in the seven games since Solskjaer became manager.
Dalot made a speedy break down the left and passed to Rashford who cut in past Pascal Gross before bending an exquisite shot into far top corner from a tight angle for his ninth of the season.
Jesse Lingard missed a glorious chance to add a third goal early in the second period, shooting wide at the far post from a couple of yards after a Rashford cross.
Martial shot into the side netting after bursting through on goal following a weaving run as United were in total command.
But the Seagulls’ never-say-die spirit was rewarded when they halved the deficit with 19 minutes left.
Gross got in-between Phil Jones and Dalot to meet a Davy Propper cross before firing high into the roof of the net from six yards.
United had Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata on the touchline waiting to come on when Gross scored.
Solskjaer immediately sat the pair down, though three minutes later made his first change when Lingard was replaced by Mata.
Lukaku came on 10 minutes later than initially intended as he replaced Martial with eight minutes left.
Conceding a goal clearly unsettled United whose play became disjointed as Brighton sensed they could take something from the game.
United struggled to create openings, though Pogba fired narrowly wide after a rare moment when they threatened.
Solskjaer made his third and final change in the third of three added minutes, that was extended to five through time wasting, when he was replaced by Darmian.