Manchester United players were subjected to chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ from their own fans as their faint hopes of Champions League qualification were dashed by a 4-0 win at Brighton.
Goals from Moises Caicedo, Marc Cucurella, Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard humbled United and ensured they would finish with their lowest points tally in the Premier League era.
Protesting traveling supporters once again took aim at club property, in addition to their outclassed and overmatched squad, in a remarkable and humiliating evening in front of a record crowd of 31,637 at Amex Stadium.
Sixth-placed Ralf Rangnick’s side were second-best for duration and can now only rack up a maximum total of 61 points this term, three less than in 2013-14, which started under David Moyes and ended with interim management Ryan Giggs. .
United’s performance was arguably the worst of a miserable season – which featured 11 defeats – to underline the extent of the job facing new manager Erik ten Hag.
A stunning win for creeping Brighton was the first in nine home games, dating back to Boxing Day, to bolster their hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top half.
United were bullied from the start and it didn’t take long for chants against the club’s owners to emerge from the traveling support.
Cries of ‘love United, hate the Glazers’ and ‘we want the Glazers out’ rang out in the early exchanges amid a blistering start from Brighton.
Albion then took a deserved lead in the 15th minute to further dampen the mood among the disillusioned away.
Ecuadorian midfielder Caicedo made the breakthrough, firing through Victor Lindelof’s legs and into the bottom left corner from distance to score his first Seagulls goal after Gross’ initial effort was blocked by Alex Telles.
The boisterous Brighton fans created a carnival atmosphere and were clearly determined to enjoy the penultimate home game of their club’s best Premier League season.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first appearance at the stadium drew a mixture of admiration and derision from the majority of the spectators.
The Portuguese star – who repeatedly drew camera phones and teasing – barely sniffled in the opening period and suffered a jab from Joel Veltman for his troubles. He then fired well over a free kick, before being booked for a sliding challenge on Lewis Dunk.
The impressive Albion should have doubled their lead three minutes before the break.
Raphael Varane made a complete mess of Robert Sanchez’s long forward kick, but former United striker Danny Welbeck squandered a golden chance by kicking with only David De Gea to beat.
Acting boss Rangnick reacted to a dismal 45-minute opener by introducing Fred and Edinson Cavani.
However, things quickly went from bad to worse for the visitors.
Left-back Cucurella joined Caicedo in scoring his first Albion goal, doubling the hosts’ lead by sweeping the roof of the net after Trossard chipped the ball away from the left.
Germany midfielder Gross deftly slipped the ball past De Gea in the 57th minute before Trossard headed home from close range just three minutes later after Diogo Dalot cleared Welbeck’s opening effort from the line.
A brief interlude as VAR checked Trossard’s goal for a possible handball gave United supporters an opportunity to vocally question their side’s commitment.
It could have been even worse for the opposing side as Alexis Mac Allister hit a post as he and Gross tried to get the ball in.
To their credit, United’s players showed increased struggle in the closing stages and threatened to reduce the deficit.
The Albion Sanchez goalkeeper saved Cavani and Bruno Fernandes well. The Spaniard also barred United substitute Harry Maguire, with Cavani’s later entry ruled out for offside.
Confirmation of the record crowd further increased the noise inside the ground, with United supporters showing their sense of humor as they chanted ‘you only came to see Ronaldo’ ahead of a long and dispirited journey home .