Football Features

Marc Cucurella leads Brighton to batter Manchester United into their worst-ever Premier League season

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:34, 7 May 2022

Marc Cucurella played a starring role in Brighton’s cinematic destruction of Manchester United.

Brighton have won their first Premier League home game of 2022 and scored a quarter of their home goals this season as a whole as they absolutely unleashed hell on United on Saturday evening.

We haven’t seen carnage on this levels since the end of Man of Steel. What Cucurella did to poor Diogo Dalot all afternoon recalled The Avengers when Hulk whipped Loki around like a caveman trying to dry a wet sock on some rocks.

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Marc Cucurella has the instantly iconic look of a comic book hero, a wiry frame with a face that is all prominent eyebrows and colossal curly hair giving him an instantly iconic silhouette. And he plays with the kind of ceaseless energy that one would attribute to those spandex-adorned heroes for whom stamina never seems to be an issue.

All superheroes do is fly around and smash their opponents and at no time do any of them stop to catch a breath. That used to feel ridiculous and fake, but watching Marc Cucurella do exactly that to Manchester United from left-centre-back, perhaps it isn’t so far fetched?

At no point during the match at the AMEX Stadium did United have even a notion of how to handle Cucurella, whose runs forward from his ostensibly defensive position continually rocked the United back line.

Diogo Dalot was all at sea trying to handle Leandro Trossard but the Belgian was free to drift infield, meanwhile Cucurella was giving the Portuguese hell, all while dragging Anthony Elanga back in his slipstream. The Swede often had the helpless expression of someone who had been swept away by the raging current of a mighty river.

Sure, one could probably caveat all this that Cucurella was only permitted such attacking freedom because Brighton were perfectly comfortable leaving Lewis Dunk back to defend Cristiano Ronaldo 1-v-1, knowing that the much feted forward was never ever going to be a threat as long as the ball wasn’t in the penalty area.

But that does a great disservice to the way Cucurella grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and was the dominant force on the pitch. Even when he played no part in the goals, the overall pressure that was weighing on United and keeping them pinned back in their own half was born of the Catalan’s drive and determination; how his boyhood club Barcelona could have used some of his fight in their Europa League exit to Eintracht Frankfurt; they sold him for just €6m!

Such was Cucurella’s power against United that when he scored Brighton’s second goal, arriving late in the box like some left-sided Frank Lampard to lash the ball home violently at the near-post leaving David de Gea in the early stages of a Bee Gees tribute dance, it wasn’t even surprising. It made perfect sense, as though he had been doing it all season when in fact it was his first goal of the campaign.

Cucurella had more touches than any Brighton player, he was a consant feature of the Brighton system in both the build-up and attacking phases. The way he occupied United’s entire right-flank allowed Trossard to roam and, as a result it was the Belgian who ended the game with the most chances created (4), the most assists (2) and even a hilarious goal to make it 4-0.

Trossard stood out on the scoresheet but it was Marc Cucurella who gave Manchester United hell in front of a record 31,637 crowd at the AMEX Stadium. For his efforts, he was voted Man of the Match. A richly deserved reward for a player who could truly ascend to any height in the world game; Luis Enrique should certainly be thinking about taking him to the World Cup in November!