Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford Lead Manchester United Past Brighton

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19:  Marcus Rashford of Manchester United controls the ball under pressure from Pascal Gross of Brighton and Hove Albion before scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on January 19, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won his seventh match in a row in all competitions as Manchester United caretaker manager with a 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford scored the goals at Old Trafford to help United close the gap on Chelsea and a place in the top four to just three points.

Pogba opened the scoring from the penalty spot on 27 minutes, and in-form Rashford doubled the lead 15 minutes later. Rashford's run of five goals in seven games since Solskjaer took over is beginning to make Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez seem irrelevant.

   

Rashford's Form Means United Should Cash In on Lukaku and Sanchez

Solskjaer recently called Lukaku "a big part of the squad," according to BBC Sport's Simon Stone. However, the reality is Lukaku will remain merely an expensive passenger as long as Rashford remains in such impressive form.

The latter continued his terrific turnaround on Solskjaer's watch by netting his fourth goal in as many league games to put United two up three minutes before the break.

Rashford showcased his coolness in the box when he took a pair of deft touches before slotting in on the turn. The sweet finish gave the England international a moment of club history:

It also gave Rashford five goals since Solskjaer took over. They've all come in the league, with the Norwegian starting the 21-year-old in every match.

Those starts are a far cry from the inconsistent super-sub role Rashford often had under Solskjaer's predecessor, Jose Mourinho. The precocious striker is now showing what he can do with regular playing time:

Solskjaer is sticking with a familiar front three for the games that matter most. Rashford is the focal point between Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, leaving Lukaku on the outside looking in.

It's a bizarre scenario for the player who cost United £75 million in the 2017 summer transfer window. Yet results and form are endorsing Solskjaer's decision.

The club should cash in on Lukaku and do the same with Sanchez. United's highest earner is another luxury fringe player.

He doesn't have the vital rapport with Rashford that fellow academy graduate Lingard has. Nor is former Arsenal star Sanchez offering the end product and direct threat Martial is bringing to games.

United should move on from Lukaku and Sanchez to help generate transfer funds.
United should move on from Lukaku and Sanchez to help generate transfer funds.Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

United needn't worry too much about cover for Rashford if they sell Lukaku and Sanchez, since Martial can also play centre-forward. Even so, the money both players would likely recoup would surely be enough to add some depth at the position if Solskjaer has a target in mind.

Sanchez is 29, while Lukaku 25, two years older than Martial. The Frenchman and Rashford are the future of United's attack, so the Reds should fetch a fee for two inconsistent and high-priced imports from the pre-Solskjaer era.

   

Solskjaer Needs Signings to Fix Suspect United Defence

Any funds fetched for Lukaku, Sanchez or both must be spent on fixing a United defence that is still suspect. Specifically, the club need signings at the back to help fix obvious aerial weaknesses.

Goal-shy Brighton caused the hosts problems, especially during the first half. Most of those issues came in the air, with several crosses into the box exposing United's back four.

A Gaetan Bong corner forced Pogba into a desperate clearance, while a Shane Duffy header from Pascal Gross' set piece called David De Gea into action. United defenders weren't decisive, aggressive or strong enough in the air.

They even looked vulnerable on the deck, with Glenn Murray missing a sitter after Solly March played him in.

Brighton wasted a host of great chances to punish United's vulnerability at the back.
Brighton wasted a host of great chances to punish United's vulnerability at the back.Jan Kruger/Getty Images

It was another cross, this one from Davy Propper to Gross, that caught out a static United back line and caused an unnecessarily nervy finish for the previously serene hosts

Solskjaer is doing all he can with what he has to fix the defence. Victor Lindelof has impressed, but the Sweden international is standing out more for his ability to play out from the back.

United need to give Solskjaer fresh talent in a defence still vulnerable enough, particularly in the air, to ultimately undermine the club's impressive post-Mourinho revival.

United have been surviving because of the favourable nature of many of their recent fixtures or by the grace of De Gea's brilliance. Better teams will surely punish this defence if reinforcements aren't forthcoming during the January transfer window.

               

What's Next?

United will travel to Arsenal for a marquee FA Cup fourth-round tie on Friday before returning to league action, hosting Burnley on January 29.

Meanwhile, Brighton also return to Premier League action on January 29 with a trip to Fulham, and that game will follow their FA Cup match with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Related

    Klopp Previews Huge Liverpool-Man Utd Clash

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Klopp Previews Huge Liverpool-Man Utd Clash

    the Guardian
    via the Guardian

    Roberto Firmino: B/R's All Angles Interview 🔥

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Roberto Firmino: B/R's All Angles Interview 🔥

    Jack Lang
    via Bleacher Report

    FIFA Hands Chelsea Two-Window Transfer Ban

    World Football logo
    World Football

    FIFA Hands Chelsea Two-Window Transfer Ban

    Matt Jones
    via Bleacher Report

    Chelsea to Consider Steve Holland If They Fire Sarri

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Chelsea to Consider Steve Holland If They Fire Sarri

    Gill Clark
    via Bleacher Report