Looking at Manchester United's place in the Premier League table, one statistic stands out. Though they are second in the division, they are some way behind the champions Manchester City and third-placed Liverpool in goals scored -- City have 102, Liverpool 80 and United 67. This number is pertinent because United have an odd problem -- in recent months they have managed to defeat several close rivals but have lost to those at the bottom of the division.
Those losses have generally come when Jose Mourinho has fielded some of the less regular starters in his squad, suggesting that he has problems with the strength in depth of his personnel. Following United's 1-0 loss to Brighton, Mourinho noted that perhaps his players were not individually as talented as critics thought. The further question, then, is why?
Mourinho should be disappointed with the team's showing against Brighton. Though it was a late-season game with little riding on the result -- his team had virtually sealed second place in the division -- United may have been expected to pose more threat than they did. Though Brighton's defence was less generous than most of those at the foot of the table -- having conceded 47 times in 36 games -- United's attacking was slow for most of the game, picking up tempo in only the last 35 minutes or so.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford came in for much criticism after the game, whilst Paul Pogba's passing was unfortunately as poor as it has been all season, but their underperformance was part of a wider problem. For one thing, United started the game with one full-back -- Ashley Young -- who rarely played the ball down the line, instead squaring it to his central midfielders and centre-backs. This had the combined effect of not only inhibiting United's speed on the break but also putting pressure on the defence and goalkeeper. Meanwhile, United's other full-back, Matteo Darmian, was even more conservative than usual in his movement and passing, meaning there was no overlapping to speak of. Given that Juan Mata was playing effectively as a right-winger, there was no pace down the United right. The two men in attack, Martial and Rashford, thus suffered from a lack of support.
Written by Musa Okwonga, ESPN