Erik ten Hag’s reign as Manchester United manager got off to a nightmare start as Brighton registered their first ever victory at Old Trafford with a 2-1 win on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Any hope of a fresh start for United after a miserable 2021/22 season was wiped away within 45 minutes as Pascal Gross struck twice to put Brighton in command.
Alexis Mac Allister’s own goal gave United a foothold in the game, but they rarely looked like getting back on level terms, showing the scale of the task lying ahead for Ten Hag.
The former Ajax boss left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench after he only returned to pre-season training last week.
Ronaldo is reportedly seeking an exit from Old Trafford to play Champions League football this season.
But without the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, United had no focal point to their attack as Christian Eriksen started in an unfamiliar role as a false nine.
The outcome could have been very different had Bruno Fernandes not blazed over a glorious chance on six minutes.
The nadir of a nightmare campaign for United last season as they finished sixth in the Premier League came in a 4-0 defeat to Brighton in May, and the Seagulls quickly settled into their passing rhythm.
Graham Potter’s men have lost two of their best players during the transfer window, as Yves Bissouma joined Spurs and Marc Cucurella moved to Chelsea this week for a club-record fee in excess of £60 million ($72 million).
But it did not show as Brighton exposed the same flaws in United’s wide-open midfield to pick apart Ten Hag’s men with ease.
Danny Welbeck, who United discarded back in 2014, was a constant threat behind the vulnerable defensive pairing of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez.
Welbeck created the opener as he ran off Maguire and laid the ball across goal for Gross to slot into an unguarded net at the back post.
The German midfielder now has six goals in 12 appearances against United, as he was again in the right place to take advantage when David de Gea could only parry Solly March’s shot across goal.
Boos rang out around Old Trafford at the half-time whistle, with the home fans not only restless about the state of their side on the pitch.
The club shop was forced to close before kick-off by a protest against United’s owners, the Glazer family, on the day Avram Glazer made a rare appearance in the directors’ box.
Ronaldo’s introduction early in the second half at least lifted the noise levels inside Old Trafford, which in turn roused United into a response.
One of the many challenges facing Ten Hag is to recover Marcus Rashford’s best form.
Rashford looked reborn during pre-season but failed to make his mark when it counted as Robert Sanchez produced a stunning save to block the England international’s effort from Ronaldo’s pinpoint cross.
Sanchez undid that good work to give United a lifeline 22 minutes from time.
The Spanish international flapped at a corner under pressure from Diogo Dalot and then slapped the ball into his own net off the unfortunate Mac Allister.
But an expected siege on the Brighton goal never materialised as the visitors comfortably saw out the closing stages for a famous win.
With the sanctions on Russian businesses biting harder, the quest for a new Chelsea owner has been ramped up. This time, tennis icon Serena Williams and F1 great Lewis Hamilton, are the ones pushing to own a stake in the Premier League club.
The Super Eagles also knew their opponents for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers just as the team’s former coach Gernot Rohr awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack. These and more are some of the top sports stories covered in First 11 this week.
We kick off from England where torrents of condolence messages have been poured in for Cristiano Ronaldo following his son’s death. The former Real Madrid star and wife confirmed their baby boy’s demise in a social media post.
Manchester United, his former clubs, players, and fans thronged social media to comfort the multiple Champions League winner over the sad incident.
The Portuguese star was excused from United’s tie with Liverpool earlier in the week. He, however, was available for selection as the Red Devils lost to Arsenal on Saturday.
Maguire Gets Bomb Threat
Still in Manchester United. Team captain Harry Maguire received a bomb threat but it was unknown who was behind it.
Cheshire Constabulary swept the 29-year-old’s home to ensure his safety. Maguire was up for selection against the Gunners.
The English defender, who stays with his fiancee and two kids, is having a turbulent campaign and has been the subject of stinging criticism from pundits and jeers from fans.
Man United Name Coach
Meanwhile, Manchester United has appointed Erik ten Hag as their manager next season.
The 52-year-old, who has signed a three-year contract, faces a huge task to revive the Red Devils’ fortunes after a fifth consecutive trophyless season. The Dutchman becomes the fifth permanent manager at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 sent the 20-time English champions into decline.
Drogba, Others Inducted Into EPL Hall of Fame
Equally, Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes was in the news this week. The Englishman joined Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero as the latest inductee into the EPL Hall of Fame.
Vincent Kompany, Ian Wright, and Peter Schmeichel alongside Wayne Rooney and Patrick Vieira are also in the “Class of 2022” inductees.
Serena, Hamilton Join Chelsea Bid
For Man United’s rivals, Chelsea, the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich over Russia’s war with Ukraine are set to cause major changes in the team. The club has been up for sale and tennis icon Serena Williams as well as Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton have expressed interest in having a stake in the London side.
They will be investing about £20m into a consortium to buy Chelsea and both are part of a group of investors backing the European champions’ takeover offer spearheaded by Sir Martin Broughton.
Serena and Hamilton have each pledged £10m to the bid. Lord Coe is believed to be part of the British-led consortium.
Russia, Belarussian Players Banned From Wimbledon
Aside from football, the Russian-Ukraine war is creating ripples in other sports. Earlier in the week, Russian players were barred from Wimbledon. Belarussian players were also affected, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) said.
US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, and women’s four Victoria Azarenka are some of the top players affected. The move drew wide criticism from players, fans, and others stakeholders in the tennis world.
But Russian officials have rejected the ban, describing it as “unacceptable”.
Nigeria Paired For AFCON Qualifiers
In Nigeria, the Super Eagles were paired with Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and either Sao Tome or Mauritius in the qualifiers for next year’s AFCON. The draws were held in Jo’burg, South Africa, and qualifications for the tournament will start in May.
The Super Eagles, who failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will also be aiming to make amends for their early exit at the last AFCON. The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions and won bronze in Egypt in 2019.
Rohr Awaits FIFA Verdict
The development came as a former coach of the team, Gernot Rohr, awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack. Rohr had reported the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to the football body for breaching contractual terms.
Reports suggest that FIFA had concluded their investigations and are set to deliver judgment on the $1m claims being made by former Niger Republic gaffer. The Franco-German had met all conditions in his contract but was sacked with one year left in the deal. While the NFF said it would pay Rohr his salary until the end of his contract, the ex-Niger boss took the NFF to FIFA. He is seeking compensation for his ‘unfair’ dismissal.
Kano Pillars Sanctioned, Banished
On the local scene, Kano Pillars were sanctioned for fans’ hooliganism. The former Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions were fined N9m and banished to Abuja for the rest of the season following the incident which took place last weekend. The club’s fans have, however, condemned the attack which led to the destruction of the visiting team’s bus.
Pele Hospitalised Again
Away from Nigeria, football great Pele was hospitalized in Sao Paulo as part of his treatment for colon cancer.
But the clinical condition of Edson Arantes do Nascimento is “good and stable, and he should be discharged from hospital in the next few days,” the Albert Einstein Hospital said on Tuesday.
Before his diagnosis of colon cancer, which led to Pele being hospitalized for a month last year, the former star of Santos and the Brazilian team was hospitalized in Paris in 2019 and transferred to Sao Paulo to have a kidney stone removed.
Five years before then, he was in intensive care due to a urinary tract infection that forced him to undergo dialysis on his left kidney. The right one was removed in the 1970s due to an injury when he was still a player.
Maradona Shirt Auction Opens
The auction for the jersey worn by Pele’s late friend, Diego Maradona, when he scored twice against England in the 1986 World Cup, including the infamous “hand of God” goal, kicked off with a bid of over $5 million.
Sotheby’s is selling the blue number 10 Argentina shirt in an online sale that runs until May 4. Hours after bidding opened, the site showed that the first offer of £4 million ($5.2 million) — matching the low end of the auction house’s pre-sale estimate — had been registered. That would set a new record price for a football jersey at auction.
The record for a game-worn shirt from any sport is $5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.