Manager Jose Mourinho said Brighton provided his Manchester United side with “probably the hardest match we’ve had this season” after a narrow win for the hosts at Old Trafford.
An unfortunate Lewis Dunk own goal was enough to earn United an 11th straight home win and cut Manchester City’s lead at the top to five points ahead of their game at Huddersfield on Sunday.
Brighton had been the better team up until Ashley Young’s attempt from the edge of the area hit Dunk and looped over keeper Mat Ryan into the net.
Earlier, Anthony Knockaert and Pascal Gross both went close after getting behind the United defence.
‘Brighton deserve more than the result they got’
“Honestly, I think Brighton were very good,” said Mourinho.
“I want to be honest and give them what they deserve, for me probably they deserve more than the result they got.
“They played really well, they had a good defensive organisation and then when they had the ball they were dangerous.
“They gave us probably the hardest match we’ve had this season.”
Ryan produced a double save to keep out Romelu Lukaku’s header and Paul Pogba’s follow-up on the stroke of half-time.
Yet Brighton, who remain ninth in the table, were more than a match for United.
“In a tight affair we were good value and I’m really disappointed not to come away with anything,” said Seagulls boss Chris Hughton.
“We looked to get into that final third as often as we could. I thought we were very brave on the ball.”
Slice of fortune seals it for United
Mourinho offered Hughton a hug at the final whistle – the Red Devils boss clearly relieved to have won a match despite a far from vintage display.
It required a huge slice of luck to finally breach the Seagulls defence in a scrappy game as Dunk, who also scored an own goal against Manchester City in August, become the first player in Premier League history to score past his own keeper against both Manchester clubs in the same season.
Young, who has not scored since May 2016, celebrated wildly. The dubious goals panel could yet rule in the former Aston Villa’s player’s favour.
United are now unbeaten at Old Trafford in 39 league and cup games – their last home defeat coming against Manchester City on 10 September 2016.
City are the next Premier League visitors to Old Trafford on 10 December and Mourinho knows his side will have to produce a better performance than this to beat their title rivals.
Lukaku looked flat throughout and now has one goal in his past 10 games while Paul Pogba was unable to have as much influence as he enjoyed the previous week against Newcastle.
This will go down as an ugly win but Mourinho and his players will not care if they are top of the table next May.
Positives for Hughton in defeat
Brighton failed to win any of their first three league games during a tough introduction to Premier League life.
Yet they showed on their first league visit to Old Trafford since 1983 that they have adapted to this level.
Culled from BBC Sports.