Premier League 17/18: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester United – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Brighton’s final home match of the season sees them welcome the Red Devils to the South Coast for some Friday night football.
20:00 BST, Friday 4th May, Amex Stadium (London, England) Sky Sports
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls should be safe with their five-point cushion over the relegation zone but he won’t want to leave anything to chance.
Without a win in their last six matches, a battling draw at Burnley last weekend will provide a glimmer of hope they can secure more points.
With their final three matches pitting them against the teams currently occupying the league’s top-three spots, this final home game of the season can be argued to provide them their best chance of breaking past 37 points.
Their opponents on Friday evening have no such troubles as they go in search of a win which will nudge them onto 80 points that could guarantee 2nd place by the end of this weekend.
However, their record against team’s in the lower reaches of the table has been a peculiar weak-point this season with Swansea the only team of the bottom-eight which they’ve completed a double over so far.
After already losing to the other two newly-promoted teams in the Premier League this season, José Mourinho will be keen to avoid a clean sweep for the first time in Manchester United’s history.
Last Time Out
Burnley 0-0 Brighton (Premier League)
The Seagulls recorded their first clean sheet of 2018 to take their first away point since February 10th.
The main talking point just prior to kick-off was the first start for Leonardo Ulloa since his January loan switch from Leicester. Beyond holding the ball up well, the striker was unable to make any telling contribution to the game, although the Seagulls were generally lacking in creativity throughout their team.
Brighton’s best chance fell to their captain, Bruno Saltor, when a corner fell invitingly at his feet. The right-back was unable to find the necessary composure though, the result of which was a shot to forget for the long-serving defender.
While Burnley had largely dominated the game, Brighton did make an improved showing after the break. Unable to fashion any clear-cut chances, it was a hard-fought but potentially a huge point for the visitors when the final whistle ended the match in stalemate.
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League)
Arsene Wenger’s final appearance at Old Trafford as the Gunners manager presided over a spirited game which required an injury-time goal from the home team to secure victory.
The naming of Arsenal’s youngest Premier League starting line up since they were beaten at Old Trafford 8-2 in 2011 created a disparity of perception between the two sides, however, matters on the pitch proved much closer.
United enjoyed the better start and had twice as many shots as the visitors (16:8) but each team finished with 3 shots on target each.
Paul Pogba kept his recent return to form flowing with a goal in the opening stages but former Manchester United forward, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, pulled the scores level minutes after the break.
With United losing their control on the game during the second half, it took the intervention of Marouane Fellaini from the bench to restore their lead. With time running out the Belgian steered a header onto the woodwork which Marcus Rashford bounced back into the net from an offside position before Fellaini made no mistake with his second and United’s final chance of the game.
Only Izzy Brown (knee) and Steve Sidwell (back) are missing for the Seagulls with there respective long-term injuries.
The main decision dominating Hughton’s thoughts will be who to start in attack, although, Glenn Murray may get the nod ahead of the two other main strikers battling him for the berth.
Manchester United Lineup
Romelu Lukaku is expected to miss out due to the foot injury which forced him to limp out of the game last weekend.
He will join Sergio Romero who and potentially Phil Jones with both players nursing respective knocks.
This could pave the way for Eric Bailly to make a rare start now that the centre-back is fully fit again while a change in attack could also come due to Jesse Lingard not having as much of an impact in recent matches.
Key Battle: Davy Pröpper (Brighton) vs Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Having served the third and final match of his three-game suspension last weekend, Pröpper is likely to return to the Seagulls midfield following his dismissal against Huddersfield.
The combative Dutchman may not have written many headlines but he’s become an integral part of their squad this season.
Missing only 15 minutes of league action prior to his red card, the midfielder has been a solid figure at the base of Brighton’s midfield and an under-appreciated reason why Brighton have been so defensively sound this season.
Looking to break through this central area past this midfield anchor is a player who continues to puzzle.
With two goals and two assists from his last five appearances, Pogba has silenced talk of a dressing room rift at Old Trafford. However, he’s also yet to grow into the dominant force in central midfield which he’s been touted as during his two years back in Manchester.
Another good showing in this game will help to strengthen his claims by bringing a consistency to his performance levels that is much-needed to qualify his credentials.
The £14 million signing of Jürgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven set fire to much anticipation in Brighton in January. However, the Dutch striker is yet to prominently feature the Seagulls.
Having arrived at the club carrying a niggling injury and needing to adjust to the English game, it’s perhaps not too surprising he’s only received a limited amount of playing time.
The fact that Brighton’s alternative striking options, Glenn Murray and Leonardo Ulloa, have similar traits to each other should work in Locadia’s favour.
As a faster and more technically able player, Hughton is yet to take advantage of this fact when making his substitutions.
Having played on the left of attack when given any chance to shine, it remains to be seen what the future holds for their record signing and the effect this could have on the Seagulls overall gameplan.
The patience of youth
With Lukaku a major doubt for the Red Devils on Friday, Rashford is the player most likely to spearhead their attack.
Despite calls from “experts” that he should quit Manchester for more playing time, the English forward has scored 12 goals so far this season, six of which in the Premier League, which is marginally more than he managed from the same number of league appearances last season.
Coupled with the fact he could potentially have a busy summer ahead of him, the 20-year-old needs to be given rest time as much as playing time to continue his steady development.
While it’s easily understood why everyone wants to see him play every minute of every game, that’s not necessarily the best route for him to achieve his potential given his tender age and something which has not benefited the likes of Richarlison this season.
Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester United
Brighton are liable to approach this game in a similar manner to the disruptive and niggly way they set up against Burnley.
The emphasis will be on Manchester United to do all of the leg-work in this game, something potentially hindered by the loss of Lukaku who is perfectly suited to this type of game.
The recent resilience and ability to grind out wins by Mourinho’s side suggests they could produce a similar result to the FA Cup quarterfinal meeting between these sides in March.