Manchester United are famed for their pulsating stoppage-time comebacks – but even they will not have envisaged winning a game after the full-time whistle in what may be the most dramatic ever end to a top flight clash.
Bruno Fernandes was the coolest man at Brighton’s home ground after United were handed a penalty for handball, and the United playmaker emphatically smashed home the spot kick into the top right corner.
The hosts appeared to have earned a well-deserved point on 94 minutes through Solly March, but it was a minute of hot-headed madness that saw United clinch their first league win of the season amid unprecedented chaos.
Bruno Fernandes netted a stoppage time winner for Manchester United against Brighton
United’s players appealed for handball after the full-time whistle and the spot kick was given
March’s late intervention saw the hosts erupt into wild celebrations, and almost proved a moment of justice after the woodwork was rattled on no less than five separate occasions.
It was a United corner, however, that saw the clash descend into a flurry of controversial decisions and frayed tempers. March was even congratulated by his team-mates for hooking Harry Maguire’s header off the line, and the final whistle soon sounded.
But as the players headed back towards the tunnel, furious appeals from the United captain saw the official Chris Kavanagh check his VAR monitor. Replays showed a clear handball, with Neal Maupay penalised for leaping and deflecting the ball away with his arm.
Neal Maupay was penalised after leaping and blocked Harry Maguire’s header with his arm
Fernandes applied the finishing touch to the memorable encounter, stepping up after the lengthy wait to dispatch explosively beyond Mat Ryan.
The drama was a fitting end to a clash that ebbed from end to end. Brighton will feel aggrieved to have not even collected a point, let alone all three, and instead will be forced to reflect on leaving empty-handed.
Maupay had fired the south coast outfit, who largely dominated, into the lead with a penalty of his own in the first half after Fernandes’ clumsy trip on the superb Tariq Lamptey.
United fought back, despite visibly struggling for the second week running, and were level through Lewis Dunk’s own goal. Marcus Rashford then stepped up with a stellar solo effort to fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men in front.
Solly March (right) appeared to have handed Brighton a point after his 95th minute finish
Marcus Rashford had fired United into the lead in the second half with a superb solo effort
With two further goals chalked off for offside from United, both managers were unsurprisingly left struggling for words in their post-match interviews.
‘You cannot sum it up, it is emotions and drama. We got away with one to be fair,’ Solskjaer admitted to BT Sport. ‘When they equalised that is two points lost, or maybe one point was what we deserved. We didn’t deserve more, but the character deserves more.
‘That is a big thing for us compared to last season, when we had too many draws. First of all, you have to be happy Jose is not here to measure their goal posts! But they created too much for my liking, we don’t really have the legs and sharpness but we will get there.
‘There’s plenty of work to do be done, sometimes you need to take the points and know that there is lots to work on.’
Graham Potter was caught on camera with his head in his hands after his team squandered chance after chance with United dropping closer to their own area.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted United were fortunate with their first league win of the season
His emotions erupted when March plundered Brighton’s second, and the tactician admitted that the ‘bitter’ disappointment that soon followed was cruel on his team.
He said: ‘We were the better team, more shots, more chances. That is football, sometimes it is not fair, we have to accept it as much as it is painful.
‘I thought we scored with the last kick of the game, I don’t know where the extra time came from. We are bitterly disappointed to concede in the way and time we have. It was a cruel blow after a fantastic performance.
‘I’m so proud of the players, we played with real courage and real spirit. It is an understatement to say we deserved something.’