MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Never before in the Premier League era had Manchester United lost three of its first five games at the start of a season.
Losing 3-1 to Brighton on Saturday, Erik ten Hag's team wrote its name into the club's history books for the wrong reasons.
It was no surprise then that the United manager was asked afterward if this losing run represented a crisis.
“No," was his response. “But we have to be very disappointed and we have to be very annoyed with ourselves. Because at United the demand is you win games.”
United's fans certainly seemed annoyed. First they jeered when $82-million striker Rasmus Hojlund was replaced by substitute Anthony Martial in the second half. And there were more boos after the final whistle blew on a latest defeat.
The result left United 13th in the standings with six points, while Brighton moved up to fourth, just three points behind leader Manchester City.
Ten Hag had led the club back into the Champions League in his first year in charge and also won the League Cup. But off-field issues involving Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Antony have cast an unwanted shadow over the club, while performances on the field have also been disappointing.
"We could score more goals, especially in the last 25 minutes,” said manager Roberto De Zerbi, who added: “the result, I think, is true.”
“There are things from the team and individuals who have to step up,” he said. "Sometimes you are in bad period, difficult periods, and you have to face that and deal with that. In this moment we don’t deal too well with it, but we can do like we showed last year.
“We can’t blame anyone else, we have to do better and be more determined, more resilient.”
City, Tottenham and Liverpool all staged comebacks to continue to lead the way in the Premier League.
Tottenham struck twice in time added on to beat Sheffield United 2-1 as manager Ange Postecoglou kept up his unbeaten start in the league. Substitute Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski scored the goals that kept Spurs in second place.
Liverpool also responded to going behind after Hwang Hee-chan opened the scoring for Wolverhampton in the seventh. Second-half strikes from Cody Gakpo and Andy Robertson, as well an own-goal by Hugo Bueno in stoppage time, secured a 3-1 win for the visitors.
Odsonne Edouard's goal looked set to secure the win for visitors until Villa's late fightback.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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James Robson, The Associated Press