Albion 2 Manchester United 3

Maybe this isn’t the right time to talk about the way Albion are playing the long game as a club.

Not when they have just suffered heartbreaking defeat in the longest game most of us can remember.

But, if most of this match was a taste of what we can expect in the second season of a long-term vision, there will be more joy than heartbreak for the Seagulls.

That a vibrant, developing and mainly youthful side did not get what they deserved was partly down to some bad luck, partly to some debatable decisions.

And – the bit Graham Potter will be concentrating on – partly down to their own lapses.

Either way, this defeat in a game they might have won felt ridiculously unjust.

Albion cannot keep allowing such good work to go unrewarded in front of goal.

They cannot keep conceding so soon after they have scored.

And one hopes they cannot have too many afternoons when it seems fate is teasing them at every turn.

Tariq Lamptey spoke about being the little man taking whacks and getting up time and again when he talked to The Argus ahead of the game.

That felt a bit like what his team were going through against United.

It was also how they must react in this coming week before a trip to early-season high-flyers Everton.

In the end, they managed to lose a league match to a sudden death penalty.

Bruno Fernandes, guilty of the foul on Lamptey which kicked off the drama, unerringly sent Maty Ryan the wrong way and there was nothing, this time, even resilient Albion could do about it.

“Just a few broken hearts,” Potter replied when asked whether he had any injuries to report from the match.

Actually, the “after-time” penalty was, on a confusing afternoon, one of the more clear-cut incidents.

It WAS handball by Neal Maupay as Harry Maguire headed goalwards – although not long ago it might have been seen as accidental, “ball to hand”. That law and its current interpretation became a hotter topic as the Premier League weekend wore on.

And it WAS before the final whistle. As easy as it is to talk about a penalty being awarded when the game is over, it actually makes sense that an incident immediately before the whistle can be reviewed immediately after it.

Otherwise you are effectively playing the final few seconds of each half with VAR not in operation.

But the incident did nothing to clear up the age-old mystery of time-keeping.

These days we are shown whether a player is six inches offside or the ball half an inch over the line but we are still guessing as to how long is left in a match.

Was too much time played on Saturday? It felt like it but we just don’t know.

It certainly appeared Albion were hard done by to have a second spot kick taken away from them after Paul Pogba was initially penalised for bringing down Aaron Connolly.

The Argus:

The decision itself by referee Chris Kavanagh and the part played by video ref Simon Hooper were questioned afterwards.

We can only guess at what Maupay, who put Albion ahead with a 40th-minute Panenka which surprised even his own boss, had up his sleeve with the second penalty.

But it would have been a great opportunity to restore a lead the hosts held fleetingly in the first half and should have maintained until the interval.

That they did not was down to an incident hardly discussed at all as Maguire possibly manhandled Lewis Dunk into a stumbling position from which he unwittingly scored an own goal from a set-piece which was cheaply conceded by Leandro Trossard and poorly defended.

Oh yes, Trossard. So much invention, so much movement, so much talent, so much involvement. So many shots against the woodwork (three here, four in the last two games).

Looking so dangerous at a time when his debut season a year ago was rudely interrupted by injury.

He was unlucky. He should also probably have scored with the chance he put against the bar and a later prod straight at David De Gea from close range.

That was part of a late onslaught by an Albion side who never ran out of ideas or patience.

No putting it in the mixer. That’s one long game they don’t believe in, even with the clock running down.

They never stopped believing in what they were doing, never stopped creating swathes of space for Solly March down their left.

Those factors were rewarded five minutes into added time when Albion kept playing, kept passing, kept pulling United across the pitch and then put March into freedom to head home.

March, like Adam Webster, had earlier hit the woodwork. The wing-back and also volleyed a good chance over.

So where are we now in the long game Albion are playing?

The points haul does not say it but they seem to be doing what they did last season but a bit better, a bit quicker, a bit sharper and for longer. It is was always a long-term change of direction and they seem to be taking another step forward.

Potter said: “We have been on a process. I can’t really explain it another way.

“I’m not going to just walk into a club and click my fingers and everything is brilliant.

“You have got to understand people and they understand you and, if you get results, that relationship grows and you can have more time together and hopefully that gets better, like any good relationship.

“Even at the start of last season, there were some good performances. We beat Tottenham here 3-0, we beat Everton 3-2.

“We had some good results but we also had some moments where we suffered, which is part of the challenge of the Premier League. We need to try and improve and I think we have done that.

“The boys want to get better. There are a lot of young ones still establishing themselves at this level.

“We have played Chelsea and Manchester United and come away with nothing but we have done a lot well.”

Albion: Ryan; White, Dunk,Webster; Lamptey, Lallana (Gross 75), Alzate, March; Trossard, Connolly (Jahanbakhsh 75), Maupay. Subs Not Used: Steele, Bernardo, Burn, Veltman, Molumby.

Booked: Trossard, White, Dunk, Jahanbakhsh.

Goals: Maupay 40 pen, March 90+5.

Man Utd: De Gea; Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba (Fred 65), Matic; Greenwood (Bailly 83), Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Martial (van de Beek 90). Subs Not Used: Lingard, Fosu-Mensah, Henderson, McTominay.

Booked: Bruno Fernandes, Matic.

Goals: Dunk 43 og, Rashford 55, Bruno Fernandes 90+10 pen.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).