Preview: Fortress Old Trafford welcome Brighton but won’t give them an easy visit

Manchester United -v- Brighton and Hove Albion

Premier League 2017/18

Old Trafford, Manchester

Saturday 25th November 2017; KO 15:00 BST

This match is not broadcast live in the United Kingdom

Manchester United face Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, the first time the two clubs have faced each other in more than 24 years. United have not been beaten at the Theatre of Dreams since the 10th September 2016 when Manchester City beat them in the league just after the first international break last season. Jose Mourinho and his new signings have helped turn Old Trafford back into a fortress and that needs to continue against Brighton, who led by Chris Hughton will be seeking an upset as they look to build on their position in the league, seeing them in ninth place heading into the fixture. United beat Newcastle United at Old Trafford last weekend, conceding the first league goal and overcoming an upset to win 4-1.

On Wednesday evening in Switzerland, United were beaten for the first time in the UEFA Champions League this season, needing just one point from the match to earn a place in the knockout stages of the competition. Confirmation of that will need to wait until the 5th December 2017 when United entertain CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford. Mourinho will be looking at the fixture with Brighton and seeking another win to keep the chase on leaders Manchester City, who are eight points ahead of United at this stage of the season and playing some entertaining, swashbuckling football. United have impressed this season, but over the past few weeks, the entertainment has been curtailed, at times with United not looking like the side they started the season as.

A return to action for Paul Pogba changed that, but there are still more improvements to make. This weekend, United may have the advantage over some of the teams below them by playing in a traditional Saturday afternoon match at 15:00 GMT. Liverpool face Chelsea in the 17:30 kick off with one side, or even both, dropping points in that match, which will help. Manchester City are away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday afternoon, so in that fixture which turned into United’s first defeat of the season, we will see if the Premier League new boys can get a victory over City, which would be the end to a great weekend. United will need to win this match, especially with a tricky visit to Watford on Tuesday, which will be followed by a trip to Arsenal the following weekend.

Previous Matches: Brighton are the underdogs in first match against Manchester United in 24 years

Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion have played 16 competitive matches in the history of both clubs; the first on the 16th January 1909 which was a 1-0 victory to United in the FA Cup at Bank Street in Clayton with Harold Halse scoring the only goal of the match. United have won ten times, drawn five times and been defeated just once – a 1-0 defeat on the 6th November 1982, exactly four years before Sir Alex Ferguson became United’s manager. It has been over 24 years since the last time United played Brighton, an FA Cup match with Ryan Giggs scoring the only goal in the 1-0 victory on the 23rd January 1993. United have a great record against Brighton and Jose Mourinho and his team will be looking to keep that record, adding another victory, of course.

Form: Manchester United have turned Old Trafford into a fortress, not losing at home since September 2016

Manchester United started well this season, seemingly scoring goals for fun in some matches, especially the ones played at Old Trafford. After the second international break of the season, United draw 0-0 away to Liverpool, dropping their first points of the season then a defeat to Huddersfield Town, United’s first defeat of the season. After picking up the pace again, just before the final international break of 2017, United were defeated by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. After the break, United met Newcastle United at Old Trafford and Dwight Gayle scored the first goal against United at home in the Premier League, a shock to the system for United, but also something of a kick in the posterior with a 4-1 thrashing coming forth. United then lost to Basel in the UEFA Champions League, now needing a win to keep the chase on Manchester City.

Brighton and Hove Albion sit ninth in the Premier League after 12 matches this season, which after coming up from the Championship, is respectable. At home, Brighton are a team in form, losing their opening match of the season, but remaining undefeated at home in their last five league matches. Away from home is where problems arise. Brighton have failed to score against Leicester City and Arsenal – losing both matches, also losing to Bournemouth and drawing 0-0 with Watford – all away from home. They have, however, beaten Swansea City and West Ham United away from home, this is commendable – but many teams have done this already. Against United at Old Trafford, Brighton may have their work cut out but they could stride into the fixture like Huddersfield Town did, which could see them being the first team to win at Old Trafford in the league since the 10th September 2016 when City did just that.

Team News: Injuries still present but Manchester United are stronger than they have been in recent weeks

United manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Phil Jones and Eric Bailly will miss the match with Brighton at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon through injury. The manager does, however, still have the services of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, returning from his seven-month recovery from a knee injury on Wednesday and Victor Lindelof. Speaking during his pre-match press conference on Friday, the Portuguese manager confirmed:

“They are out [Phil Jones and Eric Bailly]. But we are okay because we have [Chris] Smalling, [Marcos] Rojo and [Victor] Lindelof.”

Mourinho will be boosted with the players who were not involved against Basel; David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Juan Mata, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all being back in his squad. The manager also confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba will both be involved in the fixture against Brighton, suggesting that the Swede will get 15 to 20 minutes and Pogba is not yet fit enough to last the entire match. Mourinho said:

“I prefer him on the pitch than off the pitch. On the pitch, he’s another option for us and he’s an option of quality. His physicality and his intelligence, the way he moves, the way he plays. But he needs time. We managed to give him 15/20 minutes in both matches, he needs more of that, so hopefully, tomorrow, we play him again.

“Paul is still on this process where he cannot reach the fatigue limit. He cannot go more than 65 to 70 minutes because that’s when fatigue normally arrives and, with so many matches consecutively, we need to protect such an important player for us.”

United were boosted with the near return of club captain Michael Carrick after he confirmed a Cardiac Ablation on Friday evening. The player has not played since September after falling ill against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup. The player is now back in training and working on his fitness ahead of his return to action.

Predicted Starting XI:

Match Prediction:

Manchester United 3-0 Brighton and Hove Albion

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copyright: JW

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