For the second time in a week Newcastle United were completely dominated by their opponents. While Blackburn on Tuesday didn’t have the quality to deservedly put United out of the cup, Brighton had the quality to win this game after four minutes.

Pre-game me and others had wondered if it was possible to play 4 4 2 with Andy Carroll against a side who get men ahead of the ball and like to dominate possession like Brighton do. Fresh with last seasons horror show with ‘this isn’t working’ from Isaac Hayden mid-game, Bruce had three choices:

1. His side could press Brighton, particularly in midfield and try win the ball back high up the pitch. It would requires all of the players working together and would require some work in the week leading up to the game on the training pitch.

2. He could sit deep and hope to defend well and hit Brighton on the counter attack – playing Andy Carroll makes this option almost impossible because the bloke can’t really run.

3. He could instruct his side to do neither and just rinse and repeat last week’s performance in which it wouldn’t have been unfair on our opponents if they’d won by several goals

You know which one the manager opted for. I have no idea what the plan was in those opening two or three minutes. Brighton started well, as they tend to, and some of United’s players tried to press the ball, and others didn’t. Gaps all over the place and I imagine Brighton’s youth sides would provide a more difficult opponent.

Allan Saint Maximan decided to go to ground wrong side of the defender and give away a clear penalty. Seconds after that was converted, the same player for United didn’t track a runner who crossed the ball for a tap in for two nil. Seven minutes gone and the game was over. How can you lose a game after seven minutes?

The game was over before kick off really though.  What lessons were learnt from last seasons shambles against the same side? Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden simply weren’t up to the task then. What did Steve Bruce think would be different?

Did Steve Bruce and his coaching staff watch Brighton’s game on Monday night where they were especially strong down their right hand side? It’s hard to think that they did. If they, what happened to the players?

Last weekend was great. Excellent. It was Steve Bruce v David Moyes. Two managers their critics would say are still managing like its 2004. It isn’t. United have played two sides at home this week and been absolutely hammered in both games in terms of possession, chances created.

I made the point pre game that there are some fans who each time we play Brighton warn about how good a side they are. Maybe they are great, but they weren’t much better today than they were last season when they also deserved to win. Last season we finished above Brighton in the league as they struggled to 15th with only 9 league wins.

Today was so far from good enough I don’t know where to start. The team were humiliated. The manager fits in well with his club superiors in being extremely touchy about any criticism levelled his way. Today was so far off the pace that it makes you wonder about the professionalism of the whole set up. It’s not just being hammered three zip by side who have publicly stated their aim this season is ‘mid table’. It’s Allan Saint Maximin phoning it in. It’s Jonjo Shelvey’s sprawling lunge that could have been a red card after ten minutes. It’s the fact Brighton scores three, hit the post twice and could have scored three or four more. It’s not Andy Carroll’s fault Saint-Maximin did what he did, or that Jonjo Shelvey was atrocious. But I cannot understand how Bruce thought the game might go with Carroll in the side. It’s not the player it’s the tactical set up and the plan.

We’ve been here before. We put in performances last season that I don’t have the words to describe how far off the pace we were. We weren’t relegated and put in the occasional good performance. It wasn’t the absolute disaster many predicted.

Enough is enough of this kind of horror show though. United are too often a dream to play against for opponents. Brighton won’t play another side this season where the manager in his pre-match press conference admits that he’s more than willing to just give them most of the ball. It’s exactly how Brighton want to play. If you asked them, they’d want to face a a 4 4 2 with one lad who can’t run up top and the rest of the lads kind of half pressing but not really knowing what to do with themselves. The league has moved on from managers who pick the same team just because the same lads played well against a totally different performance last week.

United are in a better position so far this season than they were at the same stage last season. The cup is a great opportunity. Unless there’s a change in mentality from the coaching staff and the manager, we’ll have loads more days like this. They have a better squad at their disposal than today suggests.

Brighton were worthy winners, they’ll be fine, but I can’t see them breaching the top 10 this season. As for United, too many more of this kind of performance and the lack of fans in the ground will be a blessing for Steve Bruce.  Bruce has been here more than a year now. What’s he working towards? What’s he building? What’s the point?

Alex Hurst