Despite despair midweek with a loss in the Champions League in Switzerland, United host Brighton and Hove Albion all the way from the South coast. The game, which kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, is set to be an interesting one, as the every point is valuable for the visitors who are desperate to stay in the Premier League.
As they tried season after season to gain a place in the top flight, they finally achieved that last campaign under Chris Houghton. The Seasiders have shown their flair and fight thus far and with their star men such as Bruno Saltor, Anthony Knockaert, Pascal Groß and Glenn Murray. With a chance to show their true quality, it’s certain they’ll relish this match.
They Seagulls don’t have too many injuries to be concerned about. They’re only missing veteran midfielder Steve Sidwell which stands them in good stead for the clash. That near fully fit squad allows Brighton to likely stick to their reliable 4-4-1-1 that utilises the tremendous Groß; a man who has been a real coup for his club due to his phenomenal play and output. Their goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and midfielder Davy Pröpper have also been solid summer additions to their roster. The usually impressive and productive Knockaert will most likely cause problems too.
With no defeats since the first day of last month, it’s safe to say Houghton’s men will be confident. They’d be happy to finish 9th in the table as they are now, but they know work is yet to be done. With praise from the opposition in midweek, they know they could cause an upset and break their opponents’ unbeaten near-historic run at Old Trafford.
The disappointment of midweek is still with United as they still are in need to reclaiming their flying form. Setbacks for José Mourinho haven’t stopped too. In his press conference he confirmed that both Eric Bailly and Phil Jones will miss this match along with Michael Carrick, who remains sidelined. That means that the squad isn’t quite altogether as of yet forcing Mourinho to adapt prior to a huge run of fixtures.
It’s expected that David De Gea will return to the team even after Sergio Romero played in the Champions League and again impressed on the European stage. A lack of defensive fitness/form means it’s almost guaranteed that Antonio Valencia will regain his spot in the team along a centre-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo. The conundrum of left-back strikes again as Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw are out of form so Ashley Young should come in that position.
A rare small rest for Nemanja Matić in midweek means he will also return to the midfield. The captain on the night and last weekend’s star man Paul Pogba is set to start again in his quest for full fitness in spite of being substituted during the game. The ever-involved Marouane Fellaini might grab a start too as he makes the most of Ander Herrera’s low levels of play in the side. Moving forward, the omission of Henrik Mkhitaryan may soon be over as both Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata failed to take their chance in their last outing. The magnificent Anthony Martial will almost certainly start as Marcus Rashford may have to make way once more position-wise. Up front, Romelu Lukaku will be given another chance but Zlatan Ibrahimović is absolutely hot on his heels.
As well as all that, their own reliable 4-2-3-1 formation is the way Mourinho will probably go.
A home unbeaten record is on the horizon and it would be another shock for the Red Devils to be beaten but they must watch out. The rare fixture time is a welcome one before the massive fixture congestion ahead. The referee on the day will be Neil Swarbrick.
Life is seemingly better as a Brighton fan than is a United one as the two teams face one another for the first time in this millennium. Could Houghton cause an giant-killing? Will Mourinho show his men are up for the challenge? It’ll all unfold in this encounter.