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MAN UNITED FAN VIEW: The start of a new era? The defeat to Brighton was aimless and gutless

File that at the top of an increasingly congested drawer of unacceptable performances from Manchester United.

The clash with Brighton at Old Trafford on Sunday was meant to herald the start of a bright, new era under Erik ten Hag.

Instead, United reverted to type. They were aimless, toothless, porous and, far too often, gutless.

Manchester United started their bright new era terribly with a 2-1 home defeat to Brighton

The abysmal display and lack of unity across the club shows how big Erik ten Hag's rebuild is

The abysmal display and lack of unity across the club shows how big Erik ten Hag’s rebuild is

United were aimless, toothless and, far too often, gutless on a miserable afternoon

United were aimless, toothless and, far too often, gutless on a miserable afternoon

These are the type of displays United fans have become accustomed to in recent years, whoever has occupied the manager’s seat.

While neither the result nor the performance was as risible as on countless occasions last season, including against the same opponents almost exactly three months ago, it was a stark reminder that the good times remain in the distance for the Old Trafford faithful.

This was not how it was supposed to be. Yes, quick fixes in football are as rare as humility and honesty in the game, and Ten Hag’s revolution will take time, but those of us inside the ground expected to at least see something.

The overriding emotion leaving the ground was one of déjà vu. We have seen this horror story before.

It took less than a quarter of the match for the first audible moans to emanate from the crowd after Fred had miscued a straightforward pass that Harry Maguire had wanted played in front of him.

Those grew as Brighton scored, and scored again, in a wretched first half that was met with a chorus of boos as the players left the field, intertwined with the now familiar refrain of ‘we want Glazers out’.

One set of United supporters went a step further, taking their anger out on each other as a fight appeared to break out in the South Stand – perhaps the least likely part of the stadium for such an incident to occur.

A fight appeared to break out in one area of the crowd as Manchester United lost to Brighton

A fight appeared to break out in one area of the crowd as Manchester United lost to Brighton

In one photograph, a man seems to have his hand around the throat of another spectator

In one photograph, a man seems to have his hand around the throat of another spectator

‘Was right in front of that fight in the south stand,’ the excellent Wayne Barton, who has written numerous books on United, said on Twitter.

‘It was really quite frightening for a couple of minutes.’

Fighting your own is never the answer but, given the abject nature of what they were watching, it is easy to see why tensions may have spilled over.

The air of protest was palpable around Old Trafford prior to kick-off following another well-organised and well-attended demonstration led by The 1958, the group which came to prominence in the latter stages of last season with protests against the Glazers.

Yet there was also a sense of excitement around Ten Hag’s first competitive game in charge. Fans who, understandably, dreaded going to matches as the campaign unravelled under Ralf Rangnick were revitalised and re-energised, ready to banish the demons of last season and look ahead to a fascinating period under their new Dutch manager. 

Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench but couldn't inspire his team when he came on

Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench but couldn’t inspire his team when he came on

United fans protested against the Glazers (Avram, pictured left) before and during the game

United fans protested against the Glazers (Avram, pictured left) before and during the game

Of course, there was also the feeling that this was merely the start of what promises to be a long process – but even the most pessimistic of United fans would not have predicted conceding twice in nine first-half minutes to a team that has lost their two best players.

Others feared the worst when the team sheets were released. In Fred and Scott McTominay, you have the perfect retort to those who question why some fans have protested so vociferously in recent months, for they are the symbol of a lack of investment from an ownership that have succeeded only in being the most reviled people at the club.

Towards the end of last season, the joke was that, after much talk of rebuilds, overhauls and revolution, the much-maligned ‘McFred’ central midfield duo would start United’s first game of the season.

And so it proved, except the only ones laughing were those in the away end. New manager, same problems.

Unless there is further cash pumped into this squad, there will be many more days like this for United supporters to endure.

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