Manchester United travel to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon at the American Express Community Stadium, of which they will visit again next week in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are seeking their first Premier League victory of the season, after losing 3-1 to Crystal Palace last weekend and missing their first match against Burnley, which was postponed from a fortnight ago due to participating in the UEFA Europa League last month.
Graham Potter’s Brighton will be seeking to find their second Premier League victory of the season after falling to a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea on the opening weekend but beating Newcastle United 3-0 last weekend. Winning in both Carabao Cup matches against Portsmouth and Preston North End see the club set up a fourth round tie against United next week, which will be played in Brighton. United will be seeking to win both matches, to keep their season on track after their opening day dilemma.
Solskjaer is still seeking to bring in some fresh legs this summer, and get rid of some fringe players who have long since passes their time at the club but the frustrating ownership of the club added to the lack of any footballing knowledge by Ed Woodward and the sheer incompetence from Matt Judge, United look set to see this become their worst summer transfer window post-Sir Alex Ferguson. Solskjaer has a plan but needs to hierarchy of the club to back him in order to bring in players who have the quality the club needs to actually move forward for the first time in seven years.
How United have faired against Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League.
United and Brighton have met six times in the Premier League. United have won four times, losing twice. In terms of goals scored, United have scored 11 with Brighton scoring six with United winning and scoring two penalties and Brighton winning and scoring one. United have been shown just five yellow cards with Brighton shown 10. Neither a United nor a Brighton player have been sent off when both teams have faced each other in the Premier League. United and Brighton will face each other again next week.
In this fixture last season, which was played on the 30 June, United beat Brighton 3-0 with Mason Greenwood scoring the opening goal and Bruno Fernandes scoring a brace with goals in the 29th and 50th minute of the match. In the fixture at Old Trafford, United won 3-1 with Andreas Pereira opening the scoring in the 17th minute, Scott McTominay doubling the lead two minutes later and Marcus Rashford scoring two minutes after Lewis Dunk scored a consolation goal in the 64th minute.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League at the American Express Community Stadium on Saturday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea conceded three goals against Palace, which is something that United need to be averting in order to find their feet in the Premier League. The Spanish number one did save a penalty, but it was ordered to be retaken as he left his line and Wilfried Zaha scored it, then scoring again later in the match to carve a 3-1 victory. United were just not ready for that match as they had not long been preparing and only played one pre-season match which nine first team players missed. Dean Henderson played against Luton during the week, making his debut and playing well.
De Gea should be starting this match and Henderson could maybe play in the Carabao Cup, which will see United head back down to Brighton next week to face them in the fourth round of the League Cup. Henderson might earn his stripes playing in the cup competitions this season, maybe not the UEFA Champions League, which could see him make his Premier League debut for United in place of De Gea, in order to keep both goalkeepers fresh for the entire season. It is expected that Henderson will challenge De Gea for the number one shirt at the club but it night not happen easily for him.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence could do with some strengthening this summer but that will only happen if football men were running the club as right now, money is seen as the best thing and not spending it is better for the Glazers, who have started to ruin this football club because of their greed – but the less said about that now, the better. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should start in the fullback positions as they are the best the club has to offer right now. If Shaw can go the season injury free, it will be much better. United could do with another left-back though, hence the interest in Alex Telles.
Centrally, United do not have much depth at this moment in time. Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are both injured and have been since the Premier League restart, Marcos Rojo seems to be out of favour at this moment in time and Chris Smalling is still being linked to AS Roma despite the transfer window coming to a close a week on Monday. That leaves Victor Lindelof, who was defensively poor against Palace, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire as the experienced players in the squad with Teden Mengi coming through from the academy. In this match, Bailly and Maguire should start.
Midfield Two: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic should be starting against Brighton on Saturday but a few days rest might be too much for Matic, who was not ready for the start to the season because of a lack of match fitness. Matic is the best defensive minded midfielder at the club right now and knows what he needs to be doing in the team. Last season, his form was great and he earned himself a new contract at the Old Trafford club, which was well deserved. If Matic is not ready for this match, Donny van de Beek could start or even Scott McTominay who can do a job.
Pogba was poor against Crystal Palace last weekend and will need to find his form this season otherwise he could find himself on the bench as Van de Beek is great competition for him based on the fact he always wants to play and always wants to win. On paper, United’s midfield is probably the best it has ever been since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, which is something that United, as a club, are still trying to recover from. Pogba could be the player that makes this midfield competitive and ready to launch a challenge to win trophies this season.
Midfield Three: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
The 4-2-3-1 formation seems to be to go to formation for Solskjaer and one that he does not yet feel confident in changing. It is probably the best formation to utilise with this squad, until the hierarchy bring in some more quality, which does not seem to be happening yet. United have a good, young attacking squad with the likes of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes most often as the attacking four players on the pitch. Against Brighton, the trio of Greenwood, Fernandes and Rashford should be starting.
The trio came on in the 79th minute against Luton on Tuesday and within ten minutes, Rashford and Greenwood had scored with Fernandes and Greenwood getting the assists for the goals. United won 3-0 with a first half penalty by Juan Mata which was won by Brandon Williams who was fouled on the edge of the box. Fernandes was a great signing in January and it is hoped that he will continue to drive United forward and inspire the team to be creative and aim to win matches, which is what United needs this season seeing as the manager has not been backed by the club, again.
Forward: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman scored 23 goals and 12 assist last season but this season, in one appearance, Martial has not yet scored and did not have the best of appearances against Palace last weekend. The 24-year-old did not feature against Luton during the week and will be seeking to get up to speed after seeing both Rashford and Greenwood scored in the final few minutes of the match in the Carabao Cup. Martial is a good forward and showed his ability last season but consistently, he has a lot more to do to become one fo the great strikers to have played for the club.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Teden Mengi; Juan Mata, Daniel James, Donny van de Beek; Odion Ighalo
Solskjaer will need to have the right quality of players on the bench to face Brighton on Saturday as it could well be a tough match for United as they seek their first Premier League win of the season. De Gea will start ahead of Dean Henderson in this game although the 23-year-old did well against Luton Town making his debut for the club and performing a few good saves, despite Luton not getting the better of United many times. Defensively, Victor Lindelof and Teden Mengi could be available on the bench should they be needed to reinforce the back line.
In midfield, which is an area that could be tired later in the match, Solskjaer could choose from Juan Mata, who scored the penalty against Luton, Daniel James, who started against Crystal Palace last weekend and was rested during the week and Donny van de Beek, who started against Luton in the Carabao Cup. United are not yet ready to field Pogba, Fernandes and Van de Beek in midfield as defensively, it could pose problems for an attacking team. In attack, United have just one option; Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian started well at United but of late, he has seemed laboured and lethargic.
Written by John Walker