Manchester United host Brighton & Hove Albion in their first Premier League fixture in three weeks. It is another important match as The Red Devils enter the final stretch of the campaign.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s United are in second place in the league, six points clear of Chelsea, in fourth. They will be desperate to put their exit from the FA Cup behind them and end the season well, both domestically and in the Europa League.
With both Chelsea and Leicester dropping points this weekend, it is a perfect opportunity for United to take advantage and pull away from the chasing pack.
The match will be shown live on BT Sport, with kick-off commencing at 19:30 [BST]. Mike Dean is set to officiate his fourth United game of the season; with his last game in charge of the Reds being the 9-0 drubbing of Southampton. Meanwhile Peter Banks takes charge of VAR at Stockley Park.
Graham Potter’s Brighton have been quite the anomaly in the league this season. They seem to play attractive and well-polished football, but are only six points clear of the relegation zone.
In fact, Understats’ expected points (xPTS) module places Brighton fifth in the table, with 48.87 xPTS. In reality though, they sit on just 32 points.
This tells us that while Brighton have had a poor season overall, they have the ability to open teams up and back-to-back wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool a couple of months ago go to show that they can be real test for top sides.
Before the international break, Brighton managed to pick up back-to-back wins in the league for only the second time this season.
They face a Man United side that have most recently lost in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Leicester City outclassed The Reds, winning the affair 3-1. However, that was United’s first domestic home loss since their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in January 2020. They also managed to progress into the quarter-finals of the Europa League, winning 2-1 over two legs against AC Milan, they’ve also recently won against a strong West Ham side and then, against the odds, they beat Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium.Embed from Getty Images
Since the beginning of November, United have lost just once in the league, but they have drawn eight matches in that time-frame. Stalemates have been the problem for The Red Devils, who have either failed to see games out properly, or started them poorly in the first place.
United and Brighton have already faced each other twice this season, with the team from Manchester winning both affairs, however, the trip to the Amex Stadium earlier in the season was not so comfortable for The Reds.
Brighton caused many problems for the visitors, often utilising switches of the ball to exploit United’s narrow full-backs. This led to them equalising in the 95th minute of the game and it looked as if they were going to earn themselves a 2-2 draw.
That was until Neal Maupay gave away a penalty in the dying moments of the match which allowed Bruno Fernandes to convert the spot-kick and win the game in the most dramatic fashion for Manchester United, with a 100th minute winner.
Brighton have rarely been successful in this fixture, with just three wins in 25 games against The Reds. Solskjær has a perfect record against The Seagulls with five wins in five games.
After being forced to leave the England camp with an ankle injury, Marcus Rashford could be available for this game, as he started training Friday morning. Mason Greenwood also began training, after he withdrew from the England Under-21s squad before Aidy Boothroyd’s side were knocked out of the European Under-21 Championships in the group stages.
Anthony Martial is a doubt for the match after sustaining a knee injury in France’s match against Kazakhstan. Victor Lindelöf also missed out on Sweden’s final game of the break against Estonia and his availability is uncertain. Solskjær confirmed that the pair had not trained and that he was waiting for final confirmation on them.
David de Gea is back in contention after he missed the previous three Premier League games, because he travelled to Spain for the birth of his first child. After a good spell for United, Dean Henderson will be hopeful to keep his spot between the sticks – but Solskjær has claimed that both of the goalkeepers will have their chances in the last stage of the season.
In Brighton’s camp, Adam Webster will miss out on the trip to Manchester with an ankle injury, while Aaron Connolly could feature in the squad after he returned to training following an injury he sustained with the Republic of Ireland.
Tariq Lamptey and Solly March both played a part for Brighton in the reverse fixture in September, but the pair are out of action for the remainder of the season.
Danny Welbeck is likely to feature in the match. He played 142 matches for The Reds over the course of six years. The striker has three goals to his name so far this season.
The home straight
With just 11 matches remaining (possibly up to 15 if United progress further in Europe), Solskjær and United are on the home straight for the season. While it has been an impressive domestic season for The Reds so far, leading the rest of the pack in pursuit of Pep Guardiola’s ruthless Man City, it will mean nothing if they do not end the season strongly.