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Preview: Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Saturday's Premier League encounter between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Manchester United play host to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon having won six successive games under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Brighton make the trip to Old Trafford on the back of a narrow defeat to Liverpool, but manager Chris Hughton will still be satisfied with his team's recent form.

Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauds during the FA Cup third-round game between Manchester United and Reading on January 5, 2019© Reuters

The appointment of Solskjaer as a replacement for Jose Mourinho generated much debate, but it is difficult to find a single negative during the Norwegian's opening six matches in charge of United.

A total of 17 goals and three clean sheets have been recorded at a time when United have shown that they are capable of scoring and creating chances for fun, as well as being able to defend a lead at one of their biggest rivals.

Whatever formula Solskjaer has brought to the United dressing room is working more effectively than anyone realistically imagined, and the first-team squad now have the confidence to believe that they can get back into contention for a spot in next season's Champions League.

There is still a six-point gap separating United to fourth-placed Chelsea, but that could potentially be halved at the weekend with United competing at home and the Blues featuring in a London derby against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Solskjaer - for the first time since his arrival - is now going to have to manage genuine expectation, but the manner in which United held on to a 1-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium represented another box ticked for the 45-year-old.

The North-West giants were indebted to a brilliant display from goalkeeper David de Gea, but registering a shutout against a team in free-scoring form would have told Solskjaer that his squad have the character to achieve their targets at the end of the season.

The form and influence of Paul Pogba has naturally take the eye, but Marcus Rashford also looks like a player reborn and released from the shackles having spent much of his time under Mourinho in a wide position.

Rashford now has seven goals and six assists in the Premier League this season, and if he continues to make contributions at his current rate, United will only edge nearer the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea - even Spurs - in the coming months.

Recent form: LWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton manager Chris Hughton pictured on December 29, 2018© Reuters

Brighton failed to trouble Liverpool in front of their own supporters last weekend, and it represented a rare occasion where the Seagulls failed to score at the Amex Stadium.

However, Hughton will not read too much into his side's lack of a threat in attack, instead choosing to acknowledge that Liverpool are out of the way for the season to leave his side to focus on more winnable games in the coming weeks.

Brighton have had a tough run of fixtures since Boxing Day, but the south coast outfit managed to pick up five points from matches with Arsenal, Everton and West Ham United over the Christmas and New Year period and the meeting with Liverpool proved to be one game too far.

Another showdown with one of the top teams in the division is another uphill task on paper, but Hughton's men will have had a week to recuperate and it may make the difference ahead of the trip to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer has started to bring a fear factor back to United, although Brighton have already proven this season that they are not overawed on their travels, with just three goals being conceded at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium.

Defeats were suffered in both of those games, and although Brighton have lost seven of their 11 away outings this season, just 18 goals have been shipped and it at least suggests that Hughton's side are capable of remaining competitive until the full-time whistle.

That is going to be key this weekend with United possessing the ability and confidence to run away with it, and having Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk at the back - something which Brighton relied on last season - can only help their bid to cause a surprise.

Goals have come easily at the other end, however, with five strikes being netted in their last two away trips against West Ham and the FA Cup tie with Bournemouth.

Recent form: LLDWDL
Recent form (all competitions): LDWDWL

Team News

Alexis Sanchez goes down injured during the FA Cup third-round game between Manchester United and Reading on January 5, 2019© Reuters

Alexis Sanchez returned to training on Wednesday after a thigh injury, but the Chilean is only likely to be named on the bench at the weekend.

Pogba was absent during the same session - although the Frenchman is still expected to feature in the starting lineup - while Nemanja Matic will be available after his partner gave birth earlier this week.

Chris Smalling remains a huge doubt with a foot problem, and Marcos Rojo will play no part having returned to Argentina to continue his rehabilitation from injury.

However, Solskjaer is boosted by the return of Eric Bailly, who has now completed a three-match ban for his dismissal against Bournemouth.

Brighton will be again be without Mathew Ryan and Alireza Jahanbakhsh - who are representing their respective nations at the Asian Cup - and Jose Izquierdo is absent with a knee injury.

Bernardo is recovering well from a thigh problem, but is unlikely to feature in the starting lineup at Old Trafford.

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic; Lingard, Pogba, Martial; Rashford

Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Button; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; March, Gross, Stephens, Propper, Locadia; Murray

Head To Head

Saturday's fixture will represent just the 21st competitive encounter between the two clubs, with United registering 12 wins in comparison to just three victories for Brighton.

Four of those matches have occurred since November 2017, and Brighton have prevailed in each of the last two contests over the past eight months.

The reverse fixture took place on the second weekend of the campaign, with Brighton emerging victorious by a 3-2 scoreline at the Amex Stadium.

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We say: Manchester United 4-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

We can only see one winner in this match. United have really turned a corner and while they had to show a different side to their game last weekend, we expect a free-flowing performance against the Seagulls on Saturday afternoon.

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Who will win Saturday's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion?

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Paul Pogba celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Bournemouth on December 30, 2018.
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