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Manchester United were able to momentarily slim the gap to five points behind leaders Manchester City after a 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
The Red Devils were subjected to a hard fought contest at Old Trafford against the newly promoted Premier League side- who made their intentions apparent- with Anthony Knockaert and Pascal Gross calling David De Gea to action early on in the match.
United at some point seemed to be playing without a vivid number ten despite Juan Mata’s presence in the game, handicapping supply of the final ball against a well set up defensive unit; which is why a deflected shot by Ashley Young was cause for much celebration.
Impotent in front of goal
Jose Mourinho’s side appeared lethargic and subdued for large quarters against the Seagulls, and rightly so after a demanding midweek trip to Basel.
The trip to Switzerland wasn’t worth the struggle as a last gasp winner by Michael Lang means United have to salvage a draw against CSKA Moscow to book a place into the last-16 of the Champions League.
A second successive 0-0 draw at half time in both the Champions League and Premier League highlighted United’s impotence in front of goal; the concern further compounded by Romelu Lukaku’s tally of one goal in eleven games in all competitions.
Of importance however is the fact that United secured all three points in a match they could have potentially lost, or at best, shared the spoils.
A moral victory
The Champions League has a way of taking a toll on players; Bayern Munich lost to Borussia Monchengladbach, Barcelona had to score late to manage a draw with Valencia while Roma drew with Genoa at the weekend.
The win over Brighton was more of a moral victory, a shot in the arm for United nonetheless ahead of a tough midweek assignment to Watford in the Premier League.
A two-horse race
English teams in the Champions League were not spared last weekend either, as Chelsea could only manage a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield while Tottenham registered a similar result against visiting West Brom.
Manchester City and Manchester United likewise struggled at the weekend but still reaped maximum points from their respective encounters.
Owing to the fact that the Manchester sides won despite not being in their usual element, further adds to the narrative that the Premier League title is by definition, a two-horse race.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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