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How Manchester United should look in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Brighton and Hove Albion #BackToBasics

Manchester United face the biggest game of their season at Old Trafford, welcoming Brighton and Hove Albion for the second time this season, this time in the Emirates FA Cup. United will be looking to bounce back from their UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla, losing 2-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening. It was a poor performance with only Romelu Lukaku and Eric Bailly able to have pride in their performances.

United manager Jose Mourinho has been under fire from sections of so-called supporters who want to sack him, again, all because United lost, again. It is funny that after the victories over Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Liverpool, not a peep was heard from these ‘fans’ who always seem to get themselves heard after a defeat. United will have a minimum of nine matches to play this season, including this one, aiming to finish second in the Premier League and go all the way to Wembley in the FA Cup.

Starting XI Formation and Prediction: Back to basics for Jose Mourinho; Paul Pogba in the advanced role, Mata the glue binding the team

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Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Spanish number one was ‘reportedly’ set to sign a new contract, remaining at the Old Trafford club a bit longer but after the Sevilla defeat, reports stated that he had instructed his agent to secure a move away from the Theatre of Dreams. The reports coming hours after the defeat – so the media, not only found out quickly, but De Gea must have literally picked up his phone in the dressing room, calling his agent in front of his teammates. Those that believe the media, I feel sorry for. De Gea has stated he is happy at the club, I doubt one defeat will change that.

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Back Four: Antonio Valencia, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw

The Manchester United defence is a problem this season. Injuries and inconsistency have once again shown the men from the boys, leaving United playing defensive football to cover for the lack of depth and ambition at the back. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have shown their inabilities, Marcos Rojo, despite earning a new contract, has suffered a long-term injury again and despite Victor Lindelof needing experience, Smalling seems to get ahead of him. Now that Eric Bailly is back, Lindelof, who supporters were keen to see partnered with the Ivorian, could get his chance.

The fullback positions are questionable with Antonio Valencia keeping his right-back role, despite no actual competition this season. Timothy Fosu-Mensah may change that next season unless Mourinho brings in a new right-back. The left-back role is a problem area. Luke Shaw has been praised by Mourinho on more than one occasion, even after the criticism. He still seems to be behind Ashley Young, who played well against Liverpool, yet seemed a distant reflection of that performance against Sevilla. Valencia and Shaw should play against Brighton.

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Midfield: Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic

One of the problem areas against Sevilla was the midfield. Scott McTominay, despite playing in the last five matches, was dropped for Marouane Fellaini, who had literally just come back from four months on the sidelines, give or take his cameo against Tottenham Hotspur, which saw him come on and go off minutes later. McTominay has stated to earn his place in the team, receive praise from his manager and teammates, also earning his first international call-up for Scotland. Nemanja Matic has been in fine form recently, and McTominay has been one of the reasons for that.

Playing both Matic and McTominay together, not only leaves an able midfield, it will also allow the likes of Paul Pogba, who likes to get further forward, do what he does best. I know Pogba has been in poor form recently, but this could help him find his feet again. Matic and McTominay have been good together, whether playing in a midfield two or a midfield three. Many seem to expect a 4-3-3 formation all the time, but it won’t work all the time. 4-2-3-1 worked well earlier in the season, with Pogba more advanced. Going back to these basics may just put United into form again.

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Attacking Midfield: Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial

Manchester United started the season in fine fettle, scoring goals for fun, the majority late in the game. Looking back to that period, which seems like a long time ago, seeing the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, and Juan Mata who were all crucial to these performances. Mata is the glue that binds the team together right now, United seem to play much better football with the Spaniard on the pitch, then they do when he is not on it. Pogba is out of form, defensive duties possibly doing that. Playing him in the number ten role could see that form come back.

United looked just as poor in attack as they did in defence against Sevilla and that needs to change. I get that the defence is not solid enough, despite only Manchester City being above them in terms of goals conceded in the Premier League at least. Alexis Sanchez needs to sit this one out, on the bench, coming on if he is needed. He just does not make the team click like I, and many, expected. Anthony Martial needs to start on the left, where he has played some great football, scored many goals and created many chances this season.

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Striker: Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku has scored 24 goals this season, assisting seven further goals, meaning he has been involved in 31 goals this season. He scored his 200th career goal on Tuesday, scoring the consolation goal against Sevilla. He is still on 99 goals in the Premier League, failing to make it a century against Liverpool, which may have to wait until the end of the month now when United host Swansea City at Old Trafford. Lukaku, despite early criticism, has become that workhorse that United needed up front. The fans love him, despite criticising him months ago.

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