Manchester United are ticking all the right boxes since the Premier League resumption following the COVID-19-enforced break and are on a 14-match unbeaten run ahead of the Premier League fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday (kick-off at 00:45 IST on Wednesday, July 1, in India).
United’s unbeaten run began with a 6-0 away win over Tranmere Rovers in the fourth round of the FA Cup in late-January. Along the way, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has identified his best XI, established his core group within the starting line-up, and got United playing with renewed vigour and cohesiveness previously in short supply.
The attention now turns to the Premier League and the pursuit of Champions League qualification—also possible if United win the Europa League. They face a 15th-placed Brighton side who are unbeaten in three matches in Premier League’s Project Restart, including a come-from-behind 2-1 home win over Arsenal.
United appear the stronger side on paper, but Graham Potter-managed Brighton have kept two clean sheets (against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City) in their last three matches and are averaging in excess of 50 per cent possession (55.5% to be precise; their average possession in home matches is 59.8%) in the Premier League this season. What those numbers mean is, the Seagulls have the defensive and offensive qualities to go toe-to-toe with a Manchester United side in the best phase of their campaign themselves.
Solskjaer confirmed United don’t have fresh injury concerns after the 2-1 FA Cup win over Norwich City. Speaking to the club’s in-house media, he said: “Apart from, of course, the after-effects of the physical work-out and coming back late, they had a recovery day yesterday and today will be an easy day and we’re just preparing for tomorrow. I think the buzz and the energy that the win and a semi-final place will give you will help us tomorrow night.”
Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones have not featured in any of United’s three fixtures since the season resumed and they are unlikely to start against Brighton on Tuesday.
Steven Alzate (groin) and Jose Izquierdo (knee) are long-term injury absentees for Brighton. Potter said Adam Webster was substituted in the first half of the goalless draw against Leicester City only as a precaution for the hamstring injury he sustained. However, according to reports, the English centre-back faces a fitness test before tomorrow’s fixture.
Brighton vs Manchester United predicted lineup
Manchester United’s back five, including the goalkeeper, is settled, while Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial pick themselves in central midfield and forward areas. French midfielder Paul Pogba might start back-to-back Premier League fixtures for the first time since December after a substitute appearance against Norwich on Saturday.
Possible Manchester United starting XI (4-1-4-1): David de Gea (GK); Aaron Wa-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay/Nemanja Matic; Daniel James/Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Anthony Martial
Manager Potter has an array of attacking midfield options, with Aaron Connolly and Pascal Gross in a two-way tussle for the second-striker role behind French forward Neal Maupay. But with United expected to play in a 4-1-4-1 system and potentially dominating ball possession, the Brighton manager might prioritise solidity over adventure and, therefore, play just one out-and-out centre-forward.
Possible Brighton starting XI (4-2-3-1): Mat Ryan (GK), Martin Montoya/Tariq Lamptey, Shane Duffy/Adam Webster, Lewis Dunk, Dan Burn; Yves Bissouma, Davy Propper; Aaron Mooy, Aaron Connolly/Pascal Gross, Leandro Trossard; Neal Maupay
Brighton vs Manchester United prediction
Both teams have had the tendency to concede breakaway goals, pointing to their weakness in defensive transition. On a more fundamental level, since the season resumed, they have been guilty of allowing the man on the ball time and space to shoot (remember Nicholas Pepe’s goal against Brighton and Todd Cantwell’s goal against United?), and been punished for their slack defending.
However, with good recent form behind them and the likelihood of the managers naming settled line-ups, the result could come down to in-match details such as an individual mistake or a refereeing decision.