Manchester United will welcome newly promoted Brighton to Old Trafford as the Red Devils look to bounce back from a shock defeat in midweek.
Manchester United suffered a blip again, this time in Europe – where a point would have sealed progression in Basel as group winners in the Champions League. Although there is very little danger of United losing out on making it to the last 16, Mourinho’s side could do with a win in the final group encounter to secure on board a respectable helping of points, worthy of their swashbuckling form in the early months.
On Saturday however, the Red Devils will face a Brighton side that has made an impressive start to the new season under Chris Hughton, with the sole objective to get all 3 points and close the gap, albeit temporarily (Man City play on Sunday).
Brighton and Hove Albion will make the long trip up North – without a defeat in the last five league games with their most recent loss coming against Arsenal in early October. Hughton has stuck to the basics at Brighton and it has worked wonders for the Seagulls. With 4 wins and 4 draws in 12 games, the promoted side sit 9th on the table above the likes of Everton and Southampton and it is a credit to the manager and his previous experience that the visitors have acclimatised to the nature of the top flight so quickly.
Arguably, their best result in 2017/18 so far came against Newcastle United in the form of an impressive 1-0 win at home but Manchester United at Old Trafford are a different kettle of fish, particularly under Jose Mourinho where they have yet to face a defeat in 38 games in all competitions at home, meaning it will take a very special display from the Seasiders to come away with all 3 points on Saturday.
Phil Jones will miss out nursing a thigh injury, but Jose Mourinho is hopeful that Eric Bailly can return from injury to feature for Manchester United.
Steve Sidwell is the only injured player for the away side but Brighton are not expected to make any changes to their starting XI.
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Young; Matic, Pogba; Martial, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku
Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo; Gross; Murray
- Manchester United’s only home defeat against a team in their debut Premier League season came in 1996/97, losing 2-3 against Derby County.
- Man Utd have kept a clean sheet in half (25) of their 50 PL matches since the start of last season, more than any other side.
- This could be Romelu Lukaku’s first PL appearance against Brighton & Hove Albion and an opportunity for him to score against a 25th different team in the competition.
- Pascal Gross has been directly involved in 62% of Brighton’s 13 goals this season (three goals, five assists), the second-highest ratio in the competition after Tammy Abraham at Swansea City (71%).
Key Men Comparison
Chris Smalling (Manchester United) v Glenn Murray (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Chris Smalling has ruffled a few feathers in an interview about his exclusion from the England squad and national team Gareth Southgate citing his inability to play with the ball on his feet the key contributing factor to his squad selection criteria. The Man United defender said,
“Was I surprised? Yes, I was. But you don’t play for one of the biggest clubs in the world for as long as I have and probably won the most trophies bar the Champions League without being able to do everything a top defender needs to do, be it playing or defending. I don’t really feel like I need to prove anything to Gareth. Like I said, I play for one of the most successful managers in Jose [Mourinho] and he’s only going to pick the best players.”
But the manager he has endorsed in Jose Mourinho himself has once jokingly but pretty straight-faced mentioned Chris Smalling’s limited ability on the ball – and deeming it to be one of the reasons why his side could not go down the route that Man City seemed to have gone down – enjoying a lot of success in the process by building from the back and allowing defenders to run with the ball and initiate attacks.
But the 27-year old Smalling is one of the stand-in captains and senior figures in the side and needs to keep his down and perform whenever he is given the chance to as United look to make it 13 wins on the spin at Old Trafford in all competitions.
Glenn Murray is absolutely key for Brighton in that the visitors need to score the first goal if they were to have any chance of unsettling the home side in the way Newcastle United did for the majority of the first half last weekend. His partnership with Pascal Gross has been very productive with the duo creating or scoring 12 goals between them. But they have to be at their very best on Saturday against a team that has conceded just once in the Premier League at home, if the visitors were to upset the apple cart once again.
A routine win for Manchester United.