Cristiano Ronaldo ended his six-game goal drought in sensational fashion as Manchester United beat 10-man Brighton at Old Trafford to move back into the Premier League top four.
Bruno Fernandes added a second as United broke deep from their own half in the final minute of injury time.
After a slow start, Ronaldo scored six minutes into the second half.
The Portuguese collected the pass from Scott McTominay before going right past the Brighton defense and rolling a low shot past a static Robert Sanchez with barely a backlift.
Three minutes later, Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk was sent off after VAR sent referee Peter Bankes to review the defender’s foul on Anthony Elanga.
Fernandes missed a glorious opportunity when he failed to get past Sanchez and was only beaten by the Brighton keeper before Ronaldo nodded an excellent chance wide of the far post.
It meant United breathed a sigh of relief as Jakub Moder’s speculative shot bounced off the crossbar from the corner of the box with David de Gea battered.
Brighton were still trying to salvage something from the competition when Fernandes scored practically the last kick.
Jekyll and Hyde United
In his pre-game interviews, Ralf Rangnick, United’s interim manager, spoke of his team wanting more Dr. Jekyll rather than Mr Hyde. Unfortunately for the German, the first half had a lot more evidence of the latter, evil side.
When United were pressured with great intensity, they gave the ball away. Fred, back in the starting line-up ahead of Paul Pogba, was one of the culprits as he played a straight pass destined for Ronaldo straight to Adam Webster who was not much more than a few yards away.
But the Brazilian was not alone. When Ronaldo threw a free-kick into the wall in a promising position at the end of that disappointing opening period, it was hard to think of a redeeming role for the hosts.
They created a good chance when Ronaldo’s back-heel Jadon Sancho ran into the box. But after Brighton keeper Sanchez averted the Englishman’s shot, the best part of United’s game was De Gea’s superb save to parry Moder’s header.
The boos that accompanied the half-time whistle were predictable and when Pogba showed up late after the break and missed the start of his warm-up, it seemed as if United’s chaotic evening was about to continue.
Instead, the Frenchman stood on the touchline to join the applause as Ronaldo scored the decisive opener in the 51st minute.
However, Ronaldo knew he should have scored more and kicked a billboard in frustration when a header from a corner went just wide.
However, after an unsatisfactory period for players and team as the lead was lost in three consecutive games, they managed to secure a much-needed victory at least this time.
Well known sense of loss in Manchester for Brighton
Given that they have now drawn two and lost 12 in 14 away games at Manchester United – and have not won against City or United in 20 games – the final result can’t have come as a surprise to Brighton.
But despite scoring and losing central defender Dunk, it had to be a missed opportunity for the visitors.
They were the better side for much of the first half, but not for the first time the lack of a strong finish cost Graham Potter’s men.
Moder couldn’t have done much more with the header De Gea saved and the shot that hit the crossbar.
But Yves Bissouma shot wide before the break when he was much better placed. Danny Welbeck was then agonizingly close to a draw against his former club when he sent his header over the goal from eight yards out after being selected by fellow substitute Tariq Lamptey in the last minute.