Both seeking to build on 3-0 wins in their most recent Premier League encounters, Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United prepare for battle at the Amex Stadium on Saturday evening. Graham Potter’s side humbled Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux last weekend, while the Red Devils enjoyed a confidence-boosting success over Brentford. If interest in Graham Potter’s services was not already building ahead of the summer, a recent spate of strong results against European-chasing teams has surely caught the eye as Brighton seek to confirm a top-half finish in the Premier League, and those efforts were boosted in the West Midlands last week. With Wolves enduring a miserable period both in the opposition’s and their own penalty area, Alexis Mac Allister converted a penalty after recently missing another before Leandro Trossard and Yves Bissouma also got in on the act in a 3-0 win for the rampant Seagulls.
Consigning their miserable February and March streak to history, a tally of 11 points from the last 18 on offer in the top flight has left Brighton sitting pretty in ninth place, although Leicester City are only two points behind with two games in hand amid their Europa Conference League travails. Victories over Wolves, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur during a stellar spring period should lead to a wave of optimism from the home crowd that a famous result against the Red Devils could be on the cards, but home has not been where the heart is for Brighton in recent months.
Indeed, the Seagulls are still winless at the Amex in 2022 in the Premier League – drawing four and losing four since their Boxing Day success over Brentford – and a meagre tally of 12 top-flight goals at home is the joint-worst in the division alongside already-relegated Norwich City. With most of their recent failures coming on unfamiliar territory, a welcome return to the Theatre of Dreams saw Man United put on one of their most convincing showings yet under Ralf Rangnick, and Brentford were no match for the revered Red Devils’ names on Monday evening. Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane were all on the scoresheet to ensure that Man United’s Champions League hopes would not be dead and buried just yet, but it would still take something extraordinary for Erik ten Hag to lead the 20-time English champions in the European elite next term.
Victory over the Bees leaves Man United languishing in sixth place in the Premier League table – five points adrift of Arsenal, who have two games in hand on their adversaries – so anything but a win this weekend and the Red Devils will officially kiss their Champions League hopes goodbye. Three points may only just delay the inevitable if Arsenal can claim an expected win over Leeds United a day later, and for all of Brighton’s recent failures at home, Man United enter Saturday’s game having lost each of their last four Premier League games on the road.
It has been 41 years since the Red Devils last lost more than four league games on the bounce away from home, but they comfortably saw off Brighton 2-0 at Old Trafford back in February for their sixth consecutive top-flight win against the Seagulls, who will be in no mood to have their wings clipped in their penultimate home clash of the season. Brighton’s thrashing of Wolves was so nearly the perfect day for the travelling crowd, but Enock Mwepu’s injury put a slight dampener on the celebrations after the Zambia international was forced off with a groin problem. Mwepu’s injury could now spell the end of his season, but Adam Lallana and Pascal Gross are both ready to deputise, while Jakub Moder remains out and Jeremy Sarmiento is still out with a hamstring problem.
Potter may be tempted to make only the one enforced change this weekend following Mwepu’s injury but should largely stick with the XI that saw off Wolves in convincing fashion, with ex-Red Devil Danny Welbeck getting the nod over Neal Maupay to line up against his old club. In contrast, Man United did not pick up any fresh concerns in Monday’s game, but there are fears that Jadon Sancho (tonsillitis) could now miss the rest of the season alongside Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw. Marcus Rashford and Eric Bailly will also miss the game with bronchitis and a back injury respectively. On a brighter note, Harry Maguire is back from his knee problem, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could also overcome a knock in time for Saturday’s game but is unlikely to displace Diogo Dalot. Juan Mata and Phil Jones were both given their Old Trafford swansongs against Brentford, and the former may even keep his place in the starting lineup, but Fred’s availability could see Nemanja Matic return to the substitutes bench.
Manchester United are destined to miss Champions League no matter how many goals Cristiano Ronaldo scores down the stretch. But on the bright side, they do have a shot at a Europa League being five points up on West Ham, although the Hammers do have a game in hand on Manchester United. Brighton are in a bit of no-man’s land as they likely won’t make Europe but also won’t get relegated, so Graham Potter can try out different options while testing players’ mentalities. The prime target will be stopping Ronaldo who has scored in four straight games that he has been featured. While there was doubt in whether Erik ten Hag would want Ronaldo in his Manchester United squad, six goals scored in four games while other members of the team struggle is hard to ignore.
Brighton: Enock Mwepu will mess the match with a groin injury, and it’s likely that this will sideline him for the rest of the season. But other than that, Potter has a full squad at his selection minus long term absentees Jakub Moder and Jeremy Sarmiento.
Manchester United: Ralf Rangnick has quite a list of absentees for this one. Jadon Sancho will miss the match due to illness. Marcus Rashford has bronchitis and will also be unavailable. Harry Maguire could be available, but it remains to be seen whether he will start after United finally kept a clean sheet against Brentford. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly will also return to the squad but their best hope is a place on the bench.