Erik ten Hag defended his decision to take off striker Rasmus Hojlund in Manchester United’s 3-1 home defeat to Brighton, a substitution that left the home fans utterly bemused.
The Seagulls secured a famous victory at Old Trafford as things went from bad to worse for Ten Hag’s side after a tough fortnight for the Red Devils.
Jadon Sancho has been banished from the first-team squad and Antony given a leave of absence following assault allegations against him since the galling, last-gasp loss at Arsenal.
The visitors then heaped further misery on United, with former United frontman Danny Welbeck, Pascal Gross and Joao Pedro scoring before Hannibal Mejbri’s consolation effort.
The comprehensive end of the Red Devils’ 31-game unbeaten home run in all competitions came against the side that last beat them in the league at Old Trafford in Ten Hag’s first match in charge.
And speaking after the game to Sky Sports, Ten Hag has promised that United will come back fighting: “We are disappointed. But it was really small margins.
“We are so close against a good side. The first 20 minutes was all ours. We created chances but didn’t score. We conceded a goal with their first attack. We then had a period in the game that was quite difficult, we fought to get a goal and it was disallowed. So it is difficult in this period.
“It has not fallen on our side, but we will fight back and if we stick together, play as a team, stick to the rules, we will return.”
On what he said at half-time, Ten Hag added: “There’s always some improvements to make, especially the organisation. But is was not our day.
“The second goal was straight after half-time. Second chance second goal, very clinical. It was a setback we did not deal with so good, but we have to keep positive in such moments and stick together and you will get back onto the game.
“You learn many things from such a game. From the mental side, you can keep strong in moments but I have seen some good stuff. the way we created many chances we are just not finishing them, but that will change.”
As for the Old Trafford reaction to Hojlund being substituted with 25 minutes plus stoppage time still remaining, Ten Hag said: “He is coming with a small issue and we have to be careful but the reception of the fans was great.
“His game was great and the fans embraced it. He was unlucky with the disallowed goal, it would have been a great afternoon for him. It was not the case but he will keep going.
“He is a strong character as we are as a team and we will push back.”
Eriksen brutally honest on United defeat
Meanwhile, Christian Eriksen feels United need to have a long hard look at themselves after their third loss of the season.
He added: “It is a heavy one. We have to look at ourselves. We changed some things but we are disappointed.
“In the first half we had a lot of moments, had good control. They had a lot of possession but not many chances. They then score with their first chance and the system they play they keep the ball a lot and we had to chase it down. But we still had chances to get back into the game.”
As for what needs to be done to turn things around, Eriksen said: “The small things. We had the offside at Arsenal and today when we scored but it was out of play. The small things we are missing and a bit of luck to get over the line and get something out of the effort we put in.
“Any game at the start of the season, doesn’t matter who you play, is very important. We focus on our games and whoever we play we want to win. But we have lost three already and we have to change that.”