This was in today's Guardian's Football Daily newsletter. It should appear on their site at the end of the week.
It’s a little too early in the Premier League campaign to sound the Old Trafford crisis klaxon, which is probably just as well considering the state of disrepair and decrepitude into which the famous stadium has fallen suggests it has almost certainly run out of battery and wouldn’t emit a sound. Nevertheless, Manchester United’s season has got off to a most inauspicious beginning both on and off the field and it is difficult to avoid the feeling that the club’s beleaguered manager Erik ten Hag is now one heavy midweek defeat against Bayern Munich in Big Cup away from receiving public messages of support from random corners of the internet.
Following a weekend in which surprising Premier League results were not so much at a premium as completely nonexistent, United’s defeat at home by Brighton was arguably the least shocking of them all. Swooping down upon Old Trafford to steal the points like the feathered seaside thugs from which they take their nickname might relieve a small child of their chips, the Seagulls recorded their fourth consecutive league victory over United. If anything, the 3-1 scoreline flattered the losers despite their manager’s delusional post-match protestations that “the game was head-to-head with such small margins”. While the Dutchman’s postmortem may have been swallowed by assorted Bluetick BunchOfNumber types on the internet who are convinced the mainstream media are out to destroy their club, few seasoned Old Trafford-goers who actually watched the surgical evisceration of their team are likely to have been taken in by Ten Hag’s guff.
As United’s latest defeat unfolded, a stat was rolled out revealing that Brighton’s entire starting lineup cost just £17m, mere chump change compared to the £1.15bn United have paid out for their entire squad. “I think also Brighton, they spend money as everyone is doing and when Man United is coming, it inflates the price and that is also the truth,” said Ten Hag, who had the kernel of a point, even if he failed to acknowledge a more glaringly obvious truth that while United remain far more fashionable, the comparatively tiny club from East Sussex are currently their superiors in almost every conceivable way.
While some Old Trafford season ticket-holders might scoff at the very notion, there is little or no getting away from the fact that as things stand, Brighton currently have a better owner, a better manager, better players and more squad depth. What’s more, they boast a vastly superior recruitment department with a spookily keen eye for talent that is coupled with an almost supernatural ability to weed out potential wrong ’uns who might cause aggravation long before they get within a Seagull’s shriek of their club."