Manchester United face Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium in their penultimate Premier League match on Saturday evening. Ralf Rangnick’s side returned from poor form to beat Brentford 3-0 in the final match of the season at Old Trafford.
The goals in that match came from Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphaël Varane. It was probably one of the best performances from the squad this season, which shows that there was nothing really spectacular during the course of the season.
United will be seeking to continue their winning ways into the last two matches of the season, also allowing players who are resigned to leave the club in the summer to get some time on the pitch, also allowing youth players to get more minutes ahead of next season.
Brighton will also be seeking to keep themselves on trace with a good home performance as they look to remain inside the top ten teams in the league. United have a six point cushion over West Ham United, who have a game in hand so their UEFA Europa League participation is not yet guaranteed.
Previous meetings with Brighton and their connections with United.
United and Brighton have met nine times in the Premier League. United have won seven times, drawn zero times with Brighton winning two times. United have scored 18 goals, winning three penalties, scoring all of them. Brighton have scored nine goals, winning two penalties, scoring both of them.
United have kept three clean sheets with Brighton keeping one. Discipline has been an issue with United players receiving 12 yellow cards and no red cards and Brighton players being shown 17 yellow cards and one red card. United need to continue the run they started against Brentford.
Danny Welbeck, Oliver Norwood, James Wilson, Jesse Lingard, Tomasz Kuszczak, Robbie Savage, Paul McShane, Frank Stapleton, Andy Ritchie, Peter O’Sullivan, Wilf Tranter, Joe Carolan, Jack Mansell and Mickey Thomas have all played for both United and Brighton.
One notable mention is Eric Steele. Whilst he only played for Brighton as a goalkeeper, he was one of the goalkeeper coached for United from 2008 until 2013 and helped David Ge Gea considerably after he signed for the club in the summer of 2011.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Brighton in the Premier League at the Amex Stadium on Saturday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea is the main reason why United are where they are at this moment in time. If they did not have him, this season would have been a massacre for United. The saves that he has made have kept the number of goals conceded down.
De Gea is a world class goalkeeper and now that Spain has moved on, it will benefit the Spaniard a bit more at club level. United are a lot better with him and would be lost without him. Not playing him in the last two matches of the season would be a mistake.
Dean Henderson will want more game time but that is not something that Ralf Rangnick has given him thus far and I do not think that will chance much, if at all. United will need to be stable at the back next season and De Gea can help bring that.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Raphaël Varane, Álvaro Fernández
United’s defence really needs to find some steel and I think new additions and coaching can do that. Granted, there are players in this area at United who probably won’t last another season at United so for them, the end is near.
In respect of the Brighton match, I think Diogo Dalot will keep his place, even though Aaron Wan-Bissaka is close to returning from the sidelines. In the left-back position, Àlvaro Fernández should start this match in the left-back role, seeing as the U23s season is now over.
In the centre of the defence, both Victor Lindelöf and Raphaël Varane should keep their places in the team as they have been doing quite well, Varane after gaining some much needed match fitness after his latest spell on the sidelines.
Midfield Two: Scott McTominay, Fred
United’s midfield requires some work in the summer, as it did the summer prior and the one prior to that. It is an area that needs to be strengthened because Nemanja Matić and Paul Pogba will be leaving this summer. The likes of James Garner will strengthen the squad in this area.
Against Brighton, I would expect to see Scott McTominay and Fred start and with the fact Fred has been on the sidelines for a number of weeks, he could be replaced by Matić or even a youth player if there are any on the bench.
Both Fred and McTominay have had a tough ride at United with the know-it-all types on Twitter constantly slanging abuse at them because they continued to be picked by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, then by Michael Carrick and Rangnick. It’s like they think managers don’t know anything.
Attacking Midfield: Anthony Elanga, Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes
United’s creativity has stuttered at times this season. However, after the 3-0 victory over Brentford on Monday evening, the likes of Bruno Fernandes were given the chance to find some form and he did just that, putting in a much better performance than he had before.
Against Brighton, I think he will keep his place in the starting XI so he can be given a chance to finish the season in strong fashion once the frustration had been given time to pass and a more determined frame of mind to set in. That could be the best way to end a dull season.
Playing alongside of Fernandes, I would expect to see Anthony Elanga, as he is still head and shoulders ahead of Marcus Rashford at this time. Juan Mata should also start. I feel he has been underused this season and against Brentford, he showed something that he still has.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has been the man this season. 24 goals in all competitions and one of four goalscorers in the last eight Premier League matches and he had missed two of them. He might be 37 with some writing him off – but he has shown what he still has in his locker.
Without Ronaldo this season, United would have been a massive failure. Edinson Cavani has moaned about the club signing Ronaldo as he was ‘promised’ a role as the main striker but it was a good job Ronaldo returned as Cavani has spend the majority of the season on the sidelines.
Ronaldo is a headline at United and although the club has not won a trophy this season and looks to slip from UEFA Champions League football into either the UEFA Europa League or the UEFA Europa Conference League, there is still something to gain next season.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Phil Jones, Alex Telles; Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matić, Hannibal Mejbri; Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Alejandro Garnacho
Rangnick will need to have enough experience and youth on the bench to deal with anything that Brighton can throw at them. In the past it has been demonstrated just how much of a tough team they can be to play against. United will need to show some fight.
Dean Henderson will remain on the bench. In defence, Phil Jones and Alex Telles could be called upon if a defensive change is needed. Eric Bailly could be involved too but I don’t think his future at United is very lengthy. Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matić and Hannibal Mejbri could be available.
In attack, Marcus Rashford, although he would need to change his attitude and form, Edinson Cavani and Alejandro Garnacho could all be available. I would have liked to see more youth on the bench for this match but maybe in the final match of the season, more will gain a chance.
Written by John Walker