The 2022-23 English Premier League season kicked off this weekend with hope, and nowhere more so than at Manchester United, where a new coach promised a fresh start and an end to years of mismanagement. It took all of 30 minutes on Sunday for that hope to evaporate, and for the stench of dysfunction to return.
United, with a disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, went 2-0 down to Brighton and ultimately lost 2-1.
Fans protested the Glazers, the club's American owners; they booed the players and manager off at halftime; they groaned and stirred, agitated, at the final whistle as reality set in.
Brighton, the epitome of an underperforming mid-table team, bossed the biggest club in England for 45 minutes, then held on for victory, and reminded the Premier League of a resilient truth: that Manchester United, as currently constructed, belongs nowhere near the top of the EPL table or the Champions League.
The Red Devils looked no different than the team that finished sixth last season, with an Expected Goal differential suggesting they were thoroughly mediocre. Brighton, whose underlying stats were on par with United's, exposed that mediocrity, and deserved the three points.
Ronaldo entered early in the second half, but could not, and cannot, clean up the mess. He wants to leave Man United for a club whose competency can match his ambition. It's unclear if he'll remain at Old Trafford beyond transfer deadline day (Sept. 1), and unclear if United has any plan to replace him. Its latest target is, reportedly, Marko Arnautovic — a 33-year-old Austrian forward who currently plays at middling Italian club Bologna.
Its signings so far have been underwhelming, and so, to open what was billed as a new era, United trotted out a familiarly underwhelming starting 11. Fred and Scott McTominay anchored the midfield. Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw started in defense. Their tactics and pregame habits, thanks to Ten Hag, were different, but United's problem — its on-field personnel — remained as rotten as ever.
Follow along below for the latest reaction to United's loss — and for highlights and updates from across the Premier League and the rest of the soccer world.
Erling Haaland has a second. Man City is unfair.
A brilliant back-to-front move, playing out of the back, and through West Ham. De Bruyne's pinpoint through-ball finds a decisive, incisive, dynamic Haaland run, and... game over.
City mostly comfortable, but also a bit careless.
West Ham throws on Gianluca Scamacca, a big-money — and flat-out big (6-foot-5) — Italian striker who'll feast on crosses.
A debut goal for Erling Haaland, who wins and converts a penalty.
Great movement, lovely pass into his feet from Ilkay Gundogan. Haaland taken down by Alphonse Areola — who'd replaced an injured Lukasz Fabianski in West Ham's goal.
City off and running toward the top of the table.
All the focus on the mess at Manchester United, but meanwhile:
- Brentford came back from two goals down to steal a point at Leicester
- Man City's season is underway at West Ham. Erling Haaland starts, with Jack Grealish and Phil Foden on the wings
A well-built team beats a rich-but-dysfunctional one. Brighton 2, Manchester United 1.
The United fans groan. The Brighton fans aren't going anywhere anytime soon, applauding their players and celebrating a victory that, given the size of the clubs, was surprising, but really shouldn't be given the quality of the teams.
Plenty of reaction to come.
Games to watch
(all times ET)
Saturday, Aug. 6
Sunday, Aug. 7
Manchester United 1-2 Brighton
West Ham 0-2 Manchester City
San Diego Wave 1-2 Kansas City Current
OL Reign 1-2 Houston Dash
Saturday: Brenden Aaronson's star is born at Leeds
Saturday's biggest Premier League story, from an American perspective, was Brenden Aaronson's debut at Leeds. The 21-year-old from South Jersey, dubbed "Medford Messi," had buzzed around the first EPL pitch he'd ever graced. He contributed to a first-half equalizer. Then, with Leeds and Wolves level at 1-1, he darted into the penalty box to seemingly finish off a Patrick Bamford cross — and an attacking move started by fellow American Tyler Adams — to clinch a 2-1 win.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 6, 2022
Replays later showed that the final touch came off Wolves defender Rayan Ait-Nouri, and thus, Aaronson's winner became an own goal. But "it went off my shin somewhere in there, so I'm taking credit for it," he said postgame. And nonetheless, "U-S-A" chants rung out around Elland Road — as Leeds' American head coach, Jesse Marsch, also celebrated an opening-weekend victory.
Elsewhere in the Prem, Fulham, captained by Tim Ream, held Liverpool to a 2-2 draw. Bournemouth beat Aston Villa, Spurs ran away from Southampton, and Newcastle beat Nottingham Forest. In the final match of the day, Chelsea withstood Everton. On Sunday, Brentford came back from two goals down to steal a point at Leicester.
In Germany, meanwhile, U.S. striker Jordan Pefok opened his Bundesliga account with a brilliant header, and spurred Union Berlin to victory in the Berlin Derby. Dortmund hung on to beat Bayer Leverkusen in a battle of Bayern Munich's top two title challengers.
In France, Lionel Messi and Neymar put on a show for PSG.
And in North America, across 13 games, MLS clubs shattered a single-day record for goals.