Manchester United will go head to head with Brighton and Hove Albion in the opening Premier League match at Old Trafford on Sunday. The match will be officiated by Paul Tierney with Constantine Hatzidakis and Neil Davies as his assistants and Michael Salisbury as fourth official.
It will be the first official match for Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford and is a must win match with United seemingly limping into the season with so much work to be done in the transfer market. Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez will be seeking to make their debuts.
Brighton manager Graham Potter will be without Marc Cucurella, who has left for Chelsea this summer. Levi Colwill signed for Brighton from Chelsea on a season-long loan spell, so he could be seeking to make his debut this weekend.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Malacia;
Sancho, Fernandes, Garnacho;
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has shown why he is the United number one in pre-season and throughout last season when he was the difference in most matches between the club finishing in a European position and not qualifying for European football this season.
Granted, he has made mistakes but find me a goalkeeper that has not. None of them are 100% perfect. Dean Henderson has shown his egotistical self in the past week, which has been very disrespectful considering how last season started for him.
If it does not work out well for him at Nottingham Forest this season, it will be curtains for him endplaying for United will remain that dream that will never be achieved. De Gea has made some changes to his game under Ten Hag and he will be excited for the new season to start.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia
United’s defence has had some investment this summer with Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia plus the loan spell for Alex Telles. More needs to be done to clear out the dead wood though. Against Brighton I would expect to see Diogo Dalot in the right-back position as it seems to work well.
Harry Maguire looks set to be moved to the right central defensive position, which he favours for both England (at times) and Leicester City. This means that Lisandro Martinez should make his debut in the Premier League, playing in the left central defensive position. This partnership could be good.
Tyrell Malacia seems to be fitter than Luke Shaw, who has not played in the last fortnight since the club were in Australian, so he will remain on the bench for this match. Malacia has done well in pre-season, finding his feet at his new club. This could be a positive defensive line for United.
Midfielders: Fred, Christian Eriksen
The central midfield is an issue for United. The club cannot go into the season with Fred and Scott McTominay in this position as despite the energised performances, the creativity is not there and it starts to stunt the development in the final third, which is required to score goals.
It will sometimes work but a new signing will go straight into the starting XI. Against Brighton, I would leave McTominay on the bench and start Fred. The Brazilian has played some good football in pre-season and seemed to be more advanced at this time.
Christian Eriksen could play in a deeper role against Brighton, a deep-lying playmaker if you will. He’s got the skill and the experience to do that, although he could swap at times with Fernandes, or even play high up the pitch if United dominate in possession and pressing.
Attacking Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho
United have a wealth of attacking talent in their squad with a few experienced players and some very talented youth that requires nurturing. Jadon Sancho missed the last pre-season matches due to illness, so could be back in action this weekend – he should start on the right-wing.
Bruno Fernandes will likely play in the number ten position in the three behind the striker, which needs to see him find his feet and his form. He needs to be contributing more as he did at the start of his career at the club – otherwise those negative fans on Twitter will moan – we can’t have that!
Alejandro Garnacho started his first pre-season match at Old Trafford last Sunday and put in a great performance, although the final output did not result in much. He’s finding his feet and seems more entertaining than Anthony Elanga – who has been largely poor in pre-season.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Anthony Martial is out of this match with a hamstring injury, which has come at the wrong time for United. They have no other experienced striker other than the want away Cristiano Ronaldo. It looks like the 37-year-old will make another Premier League appearance at Old Trafford.
The Portuguese forward wants to play in the UEFA Champions League this season but is lacking a destination with the bigger clubs ruling out his signing and fans of Atlético Madrid stating that they did not want him at their club. United say he’s not for sale.
However, this cannot go on as with the transfer window into it’s last four weeks, it would seem likely that Ronaldo will get his demand, although United should hold firm and demand a fee for the player rather than being out of pocket and seeking a replacement. Arrogance needs to be defeated here.
Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw; Donny van de Beek, James Garner, Scott McTominay, Hannibal Mejbri; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga
Five substitutes can be used in the Premier League this season, in three separate intervals in the match, including the opportunity to make changes at half time. This will ensure that fatigue can be monitored across the season. Tom Heaton looks set to be the substitute goalkeeper.
In defence, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw could be on the bench against Brighton. In the early stages of the season, United will play once a week, which can be managed easily. In the midfield, Donny van de Beek, James Garner, Scott McTominay and Hannibal Mejbri could be available.
In the attacking ranks, which is where United are at their weakest so far this season. Te likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga could be called upon. Facundo Pellistri seemed to twist his ankle last Saturday against Atlético Madrid, so he won’t be available in this match.
Written by John Walker