By Peter Hall
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester United slumped to a third Premier League loss of the season at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday as Pep Guardiola returned to see Manchester City side’s 3-1 comeback win at West Ham United.
Fightbacks were the order of the day as Liverpool recovered from falling behind to win 3-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the early kickoff and two goals deep into stoppage time earned Tottenham Hotspur a 2-1 win over Sheffield United.
After another tumultuous week off the pitch for Manchester United, the club needed the players to lift their supporters.
Brighton ran out comfortable 3-1 winners, however, to ensure United suffered three defeats in the first five matches of a league campaign for the first time since 1989-90, leaving them languishing 12th in the table.
United fell behind in the 20th minute when Danny Welbeck slotted home against his former club when left unmarked in the penalty area.
Big-money signing Rasmus Hojlund, on his full debut, thought he had levelled before the break, but the ball was adjudged to be out of play when Marcus Rashford pulled the ball back to the Danish striker.
Brighton capitalised on that VAR reprieve as fine goals from Pascal Gross early in the second half and a Joao Pedro strike brought groans of dismay all around Old Trafford.
Substitute Hannibal Mejbri did get one back for the hosts with 18 minutes left but Brighton held on comfortably to move up to third on 12 points.
“Definitely that (losing three from five for the first time in Premier League history) is something that bothers me, but also I have to seen the way we play,” coach Erik ten Hag said.
“It is about character, we have to see how strong we are, stick together. We have to be very disappointed and annoyed at ourselves. We will turn this. There is a demand on us.”
Having recovered from back surgery, Guardiola would have been pleased with the fighting spirit of his team at London Stadium.
New signing Jeremy Doku, Bernardo Silva and Erling Haaland scored second-half goals to cancel out James Ward-Prowse’s strike and maintain City’s perfect record this season. They top the standings, two points ahead of Liverpool and three clear of Brighton.
City have now started a league campaign with five consecutive victories for the fifth time in their history, although their highest finish in any of those campaigns was third.
“I’d prefer to be here than to do a surgery that’s for sure,” Guardiola told the BBC.
“All game we played a fantastic game. Even when we were losing against at half-time. We were efficient, we were patient in the second-half. It was a big win after the international break. The team showed good spirit to survive.”
Wolves dominated the first half at Molineux against an unusually sluggish Liverpool, Hwang Hee-chan stroking in a seventh-minute goal and Wolves missing other chances.
Liverpool came out transformed in the second half, however, drawing level when Mohamed Salah set up fellow striker Cody Gakpo for a tap-in.
Wearing the captain’s armband on his 200th Premier League appearance, Andy Robertson slid in Liverpool’s second from another Salah pass in the 85th minute and they added a third in stoppage time.
There were further scenes of jubilation at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Tottenham were heading for their first Premier League defeat under Ange Postecoglou as they trailed to Gustavo Hamer’s goal against the run of play in the 75th minute.
But substitute Richarlison ended his goal drought with the equaliser in the eighth of 12 minutes added on and set up Dejan Kulusevski for the winner as Tottenham made it four wins in a row and 13 points from 15 — their best start to a top-flight season since 1965-66.
Late goals also helped Aston Villa storm back to beat Crystal Palace 3-1 and Fulham secured a 1-0 victory over Luton Town.
(Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond)
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