16:00 BST, Sunday 19th August, AMEX Stadium, Sky Sports Main Event
Chris Hughton’s Brighton side will play their first home game of the 2018/19 season when Manchester United roll into town.
The Seagulls’ campaign got off to a losing start when they were comfortably beaten by Watford at Vicarage Road, while Mourinho’s side edged past Leicester City at Old Trafford. There was nothing to split these two last season with both sides taking three points in their respective home fixture.
Manchester United and Mourinho will be desperate to clear the clouds of negativity that have surrounded the club all summer, and a victory over Brighton will be just the tonic to do that.
Brighton though, defied the odds to avoid the drop last time out and finished a handful of points clear of the bottom three – but can they kick-start this season’s survival bid on Sunday?
Last Time Out
Watford 2-0 Brighton
The Seagulls stuttered out of the blocks last weekend when they were beaten by a Roberto Pereyra-inspired Watford side.
Despite an influx of talent over the summer, Hughton named a familiar starting XI with only new left-back Bernardo making his Premier League debut.
Javi Gracia also named a well-known Watford side, and the Hornets didn’t take long to force the issue at Vicarage Road. They were ahead ten minutes before half time when Argentine Pereyra met Jose Holebas’ corner and volleyed home.
The number 37 got his and Watford’s second shortly after the restart when his delicately curled effort beat Matt Ryan in the Brighton goal.
Manchester United 2-1 Leicester
Jose Mourinho’s side ended a tumultuous pre-season with a narrow win over Claude Puel’s Leicester in the Premier League’s curtain-raiser last Friday night.
The Portuguese publicly displayed his frustration at the lack of the club’s activity in the summer transfer market, but World Cup winner Paul Pogba was on hand to ease tensions inside the opening three minutes.
A shot from Alexis Sanchez was handled in the Foxes penalty area and the Frenchman comfortably tucked the spot kick away.
Luke Shaw then found himself in space after a ball from Juan Mata, with the left-back finishing smartly beyond Kasper Schmeichel in the visitors’ goal.
The win wasn’t comfortable, though, as Leicester threatened throughout. Jamie Vardy grabbed a consolation for his side in added time.
Brighton and Hove Albion Lineup
Despite being outplayed for much of the 90 minutes at Vicarage Road, manager Hughton may build consistency in his selection and allow his players to find their feet.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh made his first Premier League appearance from the bench though the Iranian may be in line to start this one as Brighton look for more creativity.
Brighton will probably deploy their familiar 4-4-1-1 formation, though Glenn Murray will hope to receive a higher level of service on Sunday, having only touched the ball twice in the Watford penalty area last weekend.
Manchester United Lineup
Mourinho’s squad are blighted by early season injuries, especially in midfield, though they may be helped by the return of the late arrivals from the World Cup.
Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku could be in line to return to the XI, while in defence Luke Shaw’s performance against Leicester City should earn him another start.
With Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera still ruled out through injury, Scott McTominay or Andreas Pereira could deputise in midfield. Paul Pogba was exhausted at the end of Friday’s opening game and either Marouane Fellaini or Fred could fill in.
Key Battle: Bruno vs Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean was United’s most consistent performer throughout pre-season, though, aside from winning the early penalty, was relatively quiet last weekend.
With so many of United’s senior players either recovering from injury or a lengthy World Cup stint, Sanchez, alongside Juan Mata, is Mourinho’s creative outlet. His linkup play with Marcus Rashford went missing last time out though the reintroduction of Lukaku could bring out the best of the winger.
Pereyra and Will Hughes’ interchanging gave Bruno and his colleagues a headache on Saturday, and the right back won’t relish the prospect of directly opposing Sanchez as he looks to regain confidence.
Sanchez has been self-critical of his performances in a Manchester United shirt since his switch and has vowed to fans that this season he will be back to his best. With a point to prove, the number seven will be up for this one.
Brighton need a performance
The opening day defeat to Watford wouldn’t have been part of the original plan, but with Liverpool lying in wait after this clash on Sunday with the Red Devils, Hughton’s side could be at the foot of the table after the opening three games.
Watford didn’t have to work overtime to get the win on Saturday, and it will be the nature of the performance over the result that will concern Hughton the most.
Murray’s two touches in Watford’s penalty area over 90 minutes highlights just how short they were in creating chances and generating attacking threat.
Jahanbakhsh and Pascal Gross will be instrumental for the Seagulls this season and those two must get on the same wavelength quickly. Hughton’s side will, though, know this United side are beatable having claimed the three points here last season.
Are United ‘limping’?
When Mourinho named his starting XI for last Friday’s opener against Leicester, it outlined just how thin on the ground the Red Devils are.
Victor Lindelof was chosen over Chris Smalling in defence while Matteo Darmian, a player publicly linked with a move away from Old Trafford all summer, started at right back.
The biggest surprise came in midfield when Pogba was named on the team sheet despite returning to training only four days previously, having played in Russia all summer. Mourinho’s hand was forced, though, and the Frenchman was dead on his feet after 80 minutes.
Rashford cut his holiday short to return to training early though he, too, looked off the pace as United introduced Lukaku to the action in the second period.
The injury list at Old Trafford is lengthy, perhaps highlighting the lack of transfer activity even more – they’ll be limping through this early stage of the season.
Prediction: Brighton 0-2 Manchester United
Despite all of the United absentees, they should still get the job done on the south coast. Brighton rarely threatened at Watford, and an organised United defence could bring more of the same.
Lukaku has had another full week back in training and he’ll be a welcome reintroduction to the lineup. 0-2.
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