Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the FA Cup
quarter-final tie between Manchester United
and Brighton & Hove Albion
at Old Trafford. This match comes just five days after the Red Devils were dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla here in a shock result, adding even more significance to a fixture that was already vitally important.
Brighton, despite suffering defeat to Everton in their most recent outing, head to the Theatre of Dreams in a confident mood as they are on course to remain in the Premier League, while also making it through to this first quarter-final tie since 1986. Boss Chris Hughton
can once again be delighted with how the season has panned out, and he will now be hoping for the rarest of Wembley visits.
MANCHESTER UNITED TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Matic, McTominay; Mata, Lingard, Martial; Lukaku
SUBS: De Gea, Lindelof, Young, Fellaini, Pogba, Sanchez, Rashford
Starting with a look at the home team, Jose Mourinho
has surprisingly opted to make five changes on the back of the 2-1 loss to Sevilla here earlier this week. The biggest casualty of the lot is January recruit Alexis Sanchez, who has yet to make any real impact since making the switch from Arsenal and was particularly disappointing in that Champions League tie. Marcus Rashford also misses out, with Juan Mata and Anthony Martial taking over in attack.
Plenty of questions were asked about Marouane Fellaini's inclusion from the off against Sevilla - he drops down to the bench tonight, replaced in the centre of the park by Scott McTominay, and there is also a spot for Luke Shaw at left-back instead of Ashley Young
. The other change comes between the sticks, as cup specialist Sergio Romero takes over from David de Gea, who is among the back-ups for this crucial clash.
Mourinho clarified a few moments ago that those to have dropped out have no injury concerns; he has instead brought in five new faces as he feels that they are 'the best players to get the job done'. Fatigue certainly not an issue, with this the Red Devils' last outing for a fortnight, so Sanchez is left out simply because he has not been good enough. Five players miss out through injuries, meanwhile - Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Krul; Schelotto, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Gross, Propper, Kayal, March, Locadia; Ulloa
SUBS: Maenpaa, Bruno, Goldson, Sanders, Izquierdo, Baldock, Murray
Not quite sure about Hughton's thinking here, as he has also made five changes to the side that faced off against Everton a week ago. In-form striker Glenn Murray is among those to drop out, despite boasting eight goals in his last 11 outings, with Leonardo Ulloa instead being tasked to lead the line at Old Trafford. Solly March will provide support from a deeper position, while Jurgen Locadia is given the nod out wide.
Tim Krul and Markus Suttner are the other two players to be brought back into the starting lineup, with the former taking over from Mathew Ryan between the sticks. A two-week break ahead, but Hughton clearly not going with a full-strange side this evening, instead largely showing faith in those who have got Brighton this far. Jose Izquierdo drops down to the bench, and Anthony Knockaert is ruled out through suspension.
Gaeten Bong has been risked, meanwhile, having picked up a minor injury, so Schelotto and Suttner will operate in the full-back slots. There is also no Dale Stephens tonight due to a similar problem, as Hughton rotates near enough half of his squad for this huge trip. A pressure-free outing, you could say, but those Brighton fans that have made the trip north in their thousands will be expecting a big display from their players.
Alexis Sanchez is one of five players to drop out of Manchester United's starting lineup for this FA Cup quarter-final tie. Marcus Rashford is another to lose his place, with Juan Mata and Anthony Martial instead preferred in a front four that also includes Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku. It is the same story for Brighton & Hove Albion, as they also bring in five fresh pairs of legs from the 2-0 loss against Everton.
Things had been looking up for Man United at the start of this week... then came the visit of Sevilla and now all of a sudden things have turned sour once again. Knocked out of the Champions League and well out of the Premier League title picture, Mourinho is left fighting on one front to salvage his second season at Old Trafford. A response, at the very least, is expected from the Red Devils this evening.
Just a couple of months on from signing a contract extension, Mourinho went on a 12-minute rant at his pre-match press conference on Friday defending his managerial record and essentially outlining United's shortcomings in recent years. A lot of what the Portuguese said did make sense, especially when pointing out how underwhelming the Red Devils' record has been in the Champions League, but it has to be remembered that he has been heavily backed in four transfer windows.
Despite bringing in a raft of superstar names, most recently landing Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in a swap deal, Mourinho's men still find themselves 16 points adrift of champions-elect Manchester City in the Premier League and now left in just one competition. The FA Cup is Mourinho's lifeline, much like it has been for arch-nemesis Arsene Wenger in recent times, and should United suffer another defeat tonight then even more questions will be asked.
Should United go all the way, though, and you would not bet against them doing so, Mourinho can point to the EFL Cup, Europa League and FA Cup when asked about his achievements today - not a bad return for two years at the club. That will certainly be enough to keep the Portuguese in the good books of supporters, who have grown tired of the tactics used in big games, such as Tuesday's shock loss at the hands of Sevilla.
That loss to Sevilla was United's third in nine outings since the end of January, having also gone down to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United in successive away league games. A corner did appear to have been turned when racking up three-straight wins, though, including home triumphs over Chelsea and Liverpool to strengthen their hold on second place. With eight games to go in the top flight, the Red Devils are still strong favourites to finish runners-up.
All eyes are now very much on this competition, with a runners-up spot in the Premier League and a domestic cup the best Mourinho can now hope for in a season that promised so much. The Red Devils are on course for a 13th FA Cup crown, but it will be just their second since 2004. United's most recent triumph came a couple of years back, in what proved to be Louis van Gaal's final match at the helm - he was sacked a couple of days later.
DID YOU KNOW? Manchester United have been eliminated from three of their past four FA Cup quarter-finals, progressing only in the 2015-16 season when beating West Ham United in a replay. Not since 2010-11 have they made it through to the semi-finals without the need of a replay, in fact, so this is a stage of the competition that the Red Devils have struggled at in recent times.
No replays have been needed this far for United, having overcome Derby County here in round three thanks to a couple of late goals, before easing past Yeovil Town and Huddersfield Town away and home respectively. Jose Mourinho
has won 14 of his 16 home FA Cup ties, losing just one of those, and has been victorious in all three he has managed at Old Trafford by an aggregate 10-0 scoreline.
Mourinho an expert of sorts when it comes to FA Cup ties on home soil, then, while Lukaku has also grown to love this competition. The Belgium international has scored 11 in his last 10 outings in the famous cup, only failing to score against Man United when he was playing for Everton in the 2015-16 semi-finals. Lukaku has a positive goals return in his maiden campaign at Old Trafford, and he will now be keen to write his name in the club's folklore.
Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla on Tuesday night, forcing boss Jose Mourinho into a 12-minute rant as he attempted to defend his managerial record. The Portuguese is now left fighting for a runners-up spot in the Premier League and silverware in the FA Cup, knowing that anything less and serious questions will be asked of him.
Brighton make the trip north on a real high, even accounting for that 2-0 loss to Everton a week ago. The Seagulls have never previously won the FA Cup before, with their previous best finish coming in 1983 when they lost to Man United in the final - drawing 2-2 in the first match before going down 4-0 in the replay. This is very much uncharted territory for them, then, as they are also looking up at the top half of the Premier League.
The Premier League is understandably the priority for Hughton, with Brighton competing in the competition for the first time since its inception in 1992. They are currently six points clear of 18th-placed Southampton, though, and today's results just about went in their favour as both West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City lost again to find themselves down and out in the bottom two places.
In fact, Hughton will be looking up rather than down at the moment, with games against Leicester City and Huddersfield at the Amex Stadium to come immediately after the international break, before a trip to rivals Crystal Palace in a month's time. Brighton will need to pick up some points from those games, though, as they see out the campaign with four matches against the current top seven - Tottenham, Burnley, Man United and Liverpool.
Hughton will be dreaming of lifting the FA Cup just to cement his status as a Brighton managerial great - he did get them over the promotion line, after all - having so far overcome Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Coventry City to make it this far. The 2-0 loss to Everton seven days ago was the Seagulls' first loss in eight overall, and just their third in 13 since Boxing Day. They are certainly not the easiest of sides to beat.
This is just Albion's third ever FA Cup semi-final and their first since the 1985-86 campaign when they lost to Southampton, who are themselves on course for a place in the last four of this year's competition. Their only previous last-eight tie came in 1982-83, which they won against Norwich City en route to making it to the final. More recently, the Seagulls have lost seven and drawn one of their last eight FA Cup ties away to top-flight opposition.
Hughton has certainly impressed during his stint on the south coast, but he will need to improve on a record that has seen him lose all four of his previous trips to Old Trafford as a manager. The former Republic of Ireland international has not so much as seen his sides net a goal at this venue, though that would not necessarily spell disaster tonight if Brighton can come out on top in extra time and pens.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! These two sides have not met in the FA Cup since January 1993 when Manchester United won 1-0 through a Ryan Giggs goal. Brighton & Hove Albion have won just one of their previous 17 encounters with the Red Devils in their history, in fact, drawing five and losing 11 in that time, with their solitary triumph coming in November 1982.
With kickoff at Old Trafford now less than five minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Jose Mourinho: "Every match is important. We train very well, always. We train always very, very well, so we don't need a reaction to train better than we do because the training, the professionalism, the enthusiasm, the organisation, every training session with us since day one, since I arrived, the players have been absolutely brilliant."
Chris Hughton: "What we all know about United is they have huge quality, and are only second in this division because Manchester City are having an outstanding season. They are going to have days that are not so good, and we'll have to make sure that we play well enough to get a result. To go through would be wonderful for this club."
Mourinho has been happy with the reaction from his players since that defeat to Sevilla, but the proof will be in the pudding - a big response is required at Old Trafford tonight, the scene of their midweek Champions League exit. Hughton, meanwhile, acknowledges just how much victory will mean to supporters, as Albion close in one a second ever final appearance and their first since 1983.
KICKOFF! We are under way at a snowy Old Trafford in this all-premier League FA Cup quarter-final tie. Not the best of conditions for a football match, but there is no immediate risk of the snow settling at the moment.
Brighton seeing a fair bit of the ball in the opening few minutes, but not in dangerous areas of the field. A reminder that this match will go to extra time and penalties this evening if required - replays have been scrapped from the quarter-finals onwards.
Martial, given the nod over Sanchez tonight, cuts inside and sends a shot wide of goal via a deflection. Albion manage to clear their lines at the front post, and it is now the visitors who are back enjoying a spell on the ball.
Nice play from Mata and Matic, with the latter managing to get a cross into the middle. Back-up Brighton stopper Tim Krul failed to collect the ball with two attempts, though it was cleared to safety by one of his teammates.
United have seen three-quarters of the ball in the opening nine minutes or so of the contest. Still awaiting the first serious attempt of the evening, with United showing a little more urgency than they did against Sevilla in midweek.
Matic fizzes the ball into the path of Lingard, who in turn slots it through for Shaw. The cross was not aimed at anyone in particular, however, and Brighton were again able to deal with it. From the other flank, Lukaku meets Valencia's shot but it is wide.
That Lukaku shot, which went behind without a touch from a Brighton play, was pretty much the closest we have come to a goal so far. Most of the game is being spent in Albion's half of the field, with United seeing 73% of the ball.
Lingard is the latest to have a shot from range, which is sliced well wide of Tim Krul's goal. Definitely a little more urgency from the Red Devils compared to five days ago, yet the forward players are still not making the most of possession.
Schelotto is allowed to run and run towards the United box and eventually gets a shot away. Had he made good contact Romero would have had work to do; as it was the ball was dragged wide of the far post and the keeper watched it on its way.
Gross gets his feet in a twist when up against Shaw, giving away a throw-in deep in United's half after initially getting the beating of his man. Kayal then tried to let fly, but the ball was blocked well before it could reach the target.
Albion have had the better of the last three or four minutes at Old Trafford. Been a very quiet opening quarter to the match, in truth, with neither side yet to muster a shot on target. Look destined to go the distance at this rate.
United have taken back control of things and win themselves a corner kick, which once again comes to very little. Five-and-a-half-thousand travelling fans inside Old Trafford this evening, and it is those with southern accents making all the noise.
Heart in mouth moment for Romero as he races out to meet the ball and is so very nearly beaten to it by Brighton full-back Schelotto. The offside flag correctly went up, however, ending Brighton's attack prematurely. Awfully quiet inside Old Trafford.
Brighton's brightest moment of the match so far, as Ulloa brilliantly heads the ball into the path of Locadia inside the box. The winger was unable to get a clean shot away, but March did and Bailly was positioned in a good place to slice it behind.
Three goal attempts apiece in the opening half an hour; none of those have come close to testing either Krul or Romero. This is a match that will, fingers crossed, improve as it goes on. A reminder that extra time will be played if needed.
CLOSE! This would have been an unbelievable goal had it crept in, belying what we have seen so far. Martial and Mata exchange four or five passes inside the box and the latter gets a shot away, which deflects narrowly wide.
CHANCE! From the resulting corner the ball drops to the feet of Chris Smalling five yards from goal. The centre-back adjusts his feet but cannot find the target, instead clipping the outside of the post with his shot.
SAVE! You wait 30 minutes for a chance to arrive, then three come along in the same number of minutes. Lewis Dunk gets on the end of a cross 10 yards out and does well to generate some pace, only for Romero to get across and keep it out.
A vital interception in the middle from McTominay, with Locadia and Ulloa waiting to pounce from close range. Brighton looking a lot more energetic in the final third in what has been a pretty mixed first half at Old Trafford.
GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION (ROMELU LUKAKU)
Man United find a way through from their first serious on-target attempt of the evening. It was a nicely worked goal, too, with Matic sweeping a first-time cross towards the back post, where Romelu Lukaku
had the presence to power a header past Tim Krul from three or four yards.
Brighton will perhaps feel a little hard done by, having performed well enough in this first half. Hughton will still feel confident that his side can snatch a goal on the basis of the opening 38 minutes or so prior to United's breakthrough.
Just a couple of minutes to go until the interval and United now looking to protect this one-goal lead. Not been a vintage display from the home side but they will take any sort of result at the moment if it keeps their hopes of silverware alive.
United keep threatening to turn on the style when they get bodies in advanced positions, but it is just not quite happening for them at the minute. Ulloa nearly connects with Schelotto's cross into the middle, showing just how slender the hosts' advantage is.
HALF TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
The first half is brought to a close by the referee, with Manchester United a goal to the good against Brighton & Hove Albion. Not a great deal of goalmouth action in the opening 45 minutes, but we do at least still have a tight game on our hands.
Jose Mourinho made a big selection call by leaving out Alexis Sanchez in one of five changes from the loss against Sevilla
, but the fresh legs did not appear to bring fresh impetus in a bland opening quarter to the match. The game did spark into life with half an hour played, however, as recalled duo Anthony Martial and Juan Mata exchanged a number of passes before the latter sent a deflected shot wide.
From the resulting corner, the ball fell to the feet of Chris Smalling but he could only send it back off the outside of the upright after finally adjusting his feet. Brighton enjoyed the odd spell of prolonged possession as they went in search of just a second win in 18 attempts against tonight's opponents, coming close to making a breakthrough when Lewis Dunk powered a header on target for Sergio Romero to push aside.
Romelu Lukaku gave the home side a lead to protect with eight minutes of the first half to play, however, as he made the most of a fine first-time delivery from Nemanja Matic
at the back post to head the ball past Tim Krul. Still plenty to play for in the second half, then, but will either manager make any changes to their personnel at the midway point?
MANCHESTER UNITED SUBS: De Gea, Lindelof, Young, Fellaini, Pogba, Sanchez, Rashford
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION SUBS: Maenpaa, Bruno, Goldson, Sanders, Izquierdo, Baldock, Murray
RESTART! We are back up and running at Old Trafford, where there is news of a change to bring you. Ashley Young has come on in place of Luke Shaw in a like-for-like change at left-back - not sure if that is injury related.
Still all to play for in this quarter-final tie, with Brighton requiring a goal to potentially set up extra time and penalties. United have showed the odd glimmer in attack, but they have not looked like adding a second goal to their tally.
Nice idea from Lukaku, who tried to squeeze the ball through for Martial, but it did not quite happen. The Red Devils still yet to concede a goal in their three-and-a-half FA Cup outings this term - they are clearly doing something right!
CLOSE! Gross with an outside-of-the-boot drive from the edge of the box, which apparently took the smallest of deflections on its way to ending no more than a few inches wide. Desperately unlucky there, Brighton.
SAVE! Hughton will be happy with his side's start to the second half, particularly following that Gross effort that crept wide. Locadia takes Ulloa's knockdown under control and sees his 20-yard shot held down low by Romero.
The Red Devils still struggling to really find their groove. It means that momentum is with Brighton and, should they bag themselves a goal, you would fancy them to push on and potentially get a second. This one is far from over.
SAVE! Hughton still has Glenn Murray, the scorer of eight goals in his last 11 outings, on the bench. Locadia with a shot on the turn from 22 yards this time, which Romero leaps into the air to push behind for a corner kick.
SAVE! Brighton starting to knock on the door now, as Shane Duffy brings the ball under control and gets a shot away. A rather weak shot in the end, though - that of a centre-back, you could say - which Romero had no problems stopping.
Mourinho must surely be tempted to make a change now because Albion are starting to dominate proceedings. Gross with a cross from the right which Romero collects at full stretch. A little under half an hour left to play at Old Trafford.
United have managed to take the sting out of the game a little by retaining possession. Albion supporters making plenty of noise in the away section, knowing that all it takes is one moment of magic or otherwise and they are back level.
Locadia was played through by Gross but the pass lacked pass and the Brighton attacker could not quite take it in his path. So much energy on display in Brighton's midfield and attack, in complete comparison to United's.
CHANCE! Another chance for Locadia to draw his side level, only to this time send his back-post header wide. Brighton will kick themselves if United snatch a second goal, which would be against the run of second-half play.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION SUB! The first Brighton change of the evening is made by boss Hughton, who turns to Izquierdo for March with 20 minutes left to play - plenty of time to make an impact. The home side looking very flat still.
The home fans are understandably getting worked up now because United are failing to show any sort of serious attacking intent. The final ball is lacking and all that is needed now is for Brighton to score - be interesting to see how the Old Trafford crowd responds then.
MANCHESTER UNITED SUB! Back to the keeper it goes, though at least United are keeping their opponents quiet by knocking the ball around. Mourinho has now turned to Rashford for Mata as we enter the final 15 minutes.
Possibly into the final 14 minutes of the match at Old Trafford unless Brighton can find a leveller. Hughton has delayed bringing on Murray until now, but the striker - unlucky to miss out on an England call - is seemingly being readied.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION SUB! Glenn Murray is indeed brought on, with Leonardo Ulloa the man to make way - two changes apiece made by Mourinho and Hughton. The Seagulls need to find some momentum again, which has eluded them over the last 10 minutes.
Just looking at the second-half stats - zero shots on target for United; zero shots of any sort, in fact. That is a truly dreadful return when looking at the attacking options available to them. Still, it is they who lead by a goal to nil.
Lingard finds Matic on the edge of the box but the Serbian midfielder was unable to get a shot away. Better from the Red Devils, but they are unable to work a shooting position and now it is Brighton's turn to mount a counter.
A decent cross into the middle which Murray is unable to get his head to. Brighton really going for it now, with a little over five minutes of normal time left to play. United still stuck on zero goal attempt for the second half.
GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION (NEMANJA MATIC)
Well if nothing else United have been incredibly efficient tonight. They have created barely any openings, but from their first chance of the second half Nemanja Matic
sens Ashley Young's free kick flying past Tim Krul via his head.
MANCHESTER UNITED SUB! Marouane Fellaini is on for Jesse Lingard as United attempt to see out the final stages. It has been a lethargic display from the Red Devils, but at least they are in the hat for the last four.
Martial with a clipped pass over the top, which substitute Fellaini is unable to get on the end of. The fourth official has held up his board to indicate an additional period of three minutes. Time is surely up for the visiting side now.
Brighton certainly had their chances with the scoreline at 1-0 and will rue not taking any of them. Credit to United where it is due - they have struggled in an attacking sense tonight but still have two goals to their name and are into the semis.
FULL TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
Manchester United remain on course for a 13th FA Cup success after battling to a 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford. It was far from a classic quarter-final tie, in truth, but the Red Devils got the job done thanks to a goals late in both halves from Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from Old Trafford. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while reaction from this second and final FA Cup tie of the evening can be found elsewhere on the site in due course. Thanks for joining!