MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Loud jeers rang around Old Trafford on Saturday as Manchester United fans reacted angrily to manager Erik ten Hag's decision to take off new signing Rasmus Hojlund in a 3-1 loss to Brighton.
United was trailing 2-0 when Hojlund, an $82 million signing from Atalanta, was replaced by substitute Anthony Martial in the 64th.
Boos filled the air when the Denmark forward's number came up on the electronic board and he started to jog to the touchline.
Hojlund, making his first start for his new club and his first appearance in front of its home fans, had already seen a first-half goal ruled out by VAR. But with United needing to get back into the game after going behind to strikes from Danny Welbeck and Pascal Gross, Ten Hag decided to withdraw him in a bid to mount a comeback.
Hojlund missed the start of the season while recovering from injury and that might have been a reason for his substitution. But the crowd appeared unimpressed and vociferously made its feelings known before showing their appreciation for the striker's efforts by applauding him as he left the field.
To make matters worse for United, the change didn't have the desired effect as Brighton extended its lead soon after when its own substitute Joao Pedro made it 3-0 in the 71st to add to a troubled start to the season for Ten Hag.
United went into the match having lost two of its four games this season, while also contending with off the field issues surrounding Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Antony.
Ten Hag needed a win to lift the mood around the club, but his team was 1-0 down after 20 minutes through former United striker Welbeck’s close-range finish.
In response, Marcus Rashford had a shot deflected onto the bar after Joel Veltman’s sliding block.
United thought it had evened the score shortly before halftime through Hojlund, but the goal was ruled out by VAR after the ball was judged to have gone out of play before his finish.
After the break Gross fired low past Andre Onana in the 53rd, following Tariq Lamptey’s assist.
Pedro added a third before United substitute Hannibal Mejbri pulled one back in the 73rd with a long-range shot.
Brighton had a number of chances to add further goals, with Onana denying Kaoru Mitoma, Evan Ferguson and Ansu Fati late on before more boos were heard at the final whistle.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
James Robson, The Associated Press