sport news Man United were breathtaking when they beat Brighton in June... but optimism ...

Harry Maguire won a towering header in defence, Nemanja Matic pinged a sumptuous volley out to Mason Greenwood on the left. The youngster surged forward and crossed beautifully for Bruno Fernandes to finish clinically at the back post.

From their own penalty box to the opposition's net in three passes and 12 seconds, this was precisely the kind of exhilarating football are famous for.

The dominant performance United produced in their 3-0 win at Brighton on June 30 could be held up as template of what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to achieve at Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes celebrates with Paul Pogba after rounding off a classic Manchester United counter-attack during their 3-0 win over Brighton at the Amex Stadium on June 30

Bruno Fernandes celebrates with Paul Pogba after rounding off a classic counter-attack during their 3-0 win over Brighton at the Amex Stadium on June 30

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was all smiles after seeing his United side dominate from start to finish

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was all smiles after seeing his United side dominate from start to finish

There was brimming optimism around the club at that time. United were unbeaten in 15 matches across all competitions, a record bettered only by Bayern Munich across Europe.

Fernandes was running the show; Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial couldn't stop scoring; Paul Pogba was back from injury and having an impact and the defence had stopped leaking goals.

But the mood of optimism around Solskjaer's United back in June seems to have drained away following a difficult summer

But the mood of optimism around Solskjaer's United back in June seems to have drained away following a difficult summer

There was the promise of winning the FA Cup or the Europa League - or even both - and the summer transfer window would surely see Jadon Sancho arrive from to take United to the next level.

But as United prepare to head to the Amex Stadium again on Saturday, less than three months on, all of that optimism has drained from the club.

United are at a very low ebb and what could be a torturous season has only just begun.

Solskjaer's side had just about enough in the tank to ultimately finish third in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League.

But they didn't win any silverware, crashing out of the FA Cup and Europa League semi-finals to Chelsea and Sevilla respectively.

A trophy would have signified that United were heading in the right direction under Solskjaer but the third-placed finish - some 33 points adrift of champions Liverpool and 15 behind Manchester City - represented the bare minimum of expectations.

As we know, Sancho hasn't arrived and United haven't been lifted to a level that may allow them to improve on last season.

Harry Maguire cuts a dejected figure as United opened their season with defeat to Palace

Harry Maguire cuts a dejected figure as United opened their season with defeat to Palace

Marcus Rashford couldn't make an impact as Roy Hodgson's side won 3-1 at Old Trafford

Marcus Rashford couldn't make an impact as Roy Hodgson's side won 3-1 at Old Trafford

United's results since Brighton 

2019-20 SEASON 

July 4 Bournemouth (H) W 5-2

July 9 Aston Villa (A) W 3-0

July 13 Southampton (H) D 2-2

July 16 Crystal Palace (A) W 2-0

July 19 Chelsea (Wembley) L 1-3

FA Cup semi-final

July 22 West Ham (H) D 1-1

July 26 Leicester City (A) W 2-0

EUROPA LEAGUE 

August 5 LASK (H) W 2-1 

August 10 Copenhagen (Cologne) W 1-0  

August 16 Sevilla (Cologne) L 1-2 

2020-21 SEASON 

September 19 Crystal Palace (H) L 1-3

September 22 Luton Town (A) W 3-0

Carabao Cup third round

OVERALL RECORD  

Played: 12

Won: 7

Drawn: 2

Lost: 3

Goals scored: 24

Goals against: 14

 

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, under no pressure to sell and with no agitation from the player, have remained steadfast to their £108million valuation of Sancho and United have refused to pay it.

Now, reports suggest United will table a 'take-it-or-leave-it' offer of £90m in a desperate-looking final effort to get Sancho. Actually, it will be £75m up front and a further £15m in add-ons.

Ed Woodward will reportedly inform the Bundesliga side there will be no negotiating over the fee or the structure of the deal.

If so, he risks having Dortmund shut the door in his face. The German club know Sancho's value isn't going to drop and there could well be a bidding war among European powerhouses next summer when the Covid-battered market has recovered.

A signing of Sancho's ilk would be handy because in contrast to those heady days in June and July, United lack a cutting edge.

United have been unable to bring in their No 1 summer transfer target Jadon Sancho

United have been unable to bring in their No 1 summer transfer target Jadon Sancho

Ed Woodward has come under pressure with just one signing made so far this summer

Ed Woodward has come under pressure with just one signing made so far this summer

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Donny van de Beek is the only new arrival at United so far after joining from Ajax for £35m

Donny van de Beek is the only new arrival at United so far after joining from Ajax for £35m

In that game with Brighton, United had six shots on target and scored three times, with the first-half strikes from Greenwood and Fernandes killing the contest inside half-an-hour.

Against Palace, despite 76 per cent possession, 17 shots in total and four on target, they could only muster one goal - which came from the one signing

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