MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (REUTERS) - Cristiano Ronaldo broke his goal drought to score Manchester United's opener in a 2-0 defeat of Brighton & Hove Albion that lifted them into the Premier League's top four on Tuesday (Feb 15).
Ronaldo, without a goal since December and dropped to the bench by interim manager Ralf Rangnick in some recent matches, struck five minutes after half-time with a superb finish after being played in by Scott McTominay.
Brighton had been the better side before half-time with United again looking disjointed and lacking spark.
But their hopes of responding after falling behind were damaged when Lewis Dunk was sent off after a foul on Anthony Elanga, an initial yellow card being upgraded to red.
Even then United were unconvincing and Brighton's Jakub Moder curled an effort against the crossbar before former United striker Danny Welbeck headed over a late chance.
Bruno Fernandes gave the scoreline a flattering look with a well-taken solo goal in stoppage time as United moved above West Ham United into fourth spot with 43 points from 25 games, although sixth-placed Arsenal are four points behind with three games in hand..
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick said the win had been very important, even if he was again frustrated that his side could not sustain a 90-minute performance.
“This was a very important win and even so after the first half today; today for a change we had a better second half than the first half and in the second half it paid off, we were more aggressive, we were primed to intercept and attack them in higher positions, so a highly important win for us,” he said.
“It was different from the last three games because we were Dr Jekyll in the first half and this time in the second half.”
Goalkeeper David de Gea, meanwhile, said United should be setting their sights higher.
“It is great always when you have the three points especially after we draw the last few games. We are all very happy,” said the Spaniard, who made a stunning save to stop Brighton taking the lead in the first half.
“We should be fighting for more things than the top four, but that is the reality. There are many teams fighting for the same position and with the quality we have we should win a lot of points.”