MX23RW : Tuesday, December 18 13:55:01
Nov 25, 2017 at 3pm UK at ​Old Trafford
Attendance: 75,018
Man UtdManchester United
BrightonBrighton & Hove Albion
Dunk (66' og.)
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Premier League meeting between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford.

Manchester United welcome Brighton & Hove Albion to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, targeting all three points to keep the pressure alive on Premier League pacesetters Manchester City.

The Red Devils are in the midst of a busy run of fixtures between now and the New Year, as they remain on course for success at home and in Europe despite defeat to Basel in midweek.

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho applauds during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Newcastle United on November 18, 2017© SilverHub

As surprising as Wednesday night's 1-0 reverse at St Jakob-Park was, even accounting for the seven changes made by Jose Mourinho, the result should have little bearing on United's hopes of progression in the Champions League.

Only a five-goal defeat to CSKA at home in their final Group A outing, combined with victory for midweek conquerors Basel over Benfica, will prevent the Red Devils from booking their place in the last 16 of UEFA's showpiece competition - a competition that they have had very little success in since reaching the final in 2011.

United are not quite over the line just yet, then, but Mourinho can at least heavily rotate his side for the visit of CSKA in a little under two weeks' time, with that game coming five days before a huge showdown against Manchester City at the Theatre of Dreams.

The hope for Mourinho's men is that they remain within sight of their arch rivals when that game arrives, as the Red Devils attempt to halt a near-perfect Citizens side in their tracks to keep the title race alive heading into the second half of the season.

With seven successive league wins at Old Trafford, and 12 victories on the spin in all competitions here, United can boast their best run of home form since March 2013 when legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson was still at the helm.

Going further back, the 13-times Premier League champions are unbeaten in a record 38 games at Old Trafford since going down 2-1 to Man City in September 2016, although 10 draws here last term proved to be their undoing as they finished in a lowly sixth place.

At least two goals have been scored in six of their last seven here, while United have also scored exactly four times on seven occasions overall this campaign - further ammunition for Mourinho to use when hitting back at his critics.

The bottom line remains the same on the back of the 1-0 loss against Basel, though - the Red Devils are not as efficient as their city rivals, and any further slip-up domestically could very well prove fatal to their hopes of a first title in the post-Ferguson era.

Recent form in Premier League: WDLWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLWL

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton manager Chris Hughton reacts during his side's Premier League clash with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on October 1, 2017© SilverHub

Brighton make the 258-mile trek north on Saturday afternoon on a good run of form, having gone five matches unbeaten since defeat away to Arsenal on October 1.

Not bad going for a side many backed for an immediate return to the second tier, and boss Chris Hughton is deserving of huge credit for not only making his side hard to beat, but also carving out key victories along the way.

During their ongoing unbeaten run, the Seagulls - agonisingly pipped to the Championship title by Newcastle United on the final day last season - have earned back-to-back wins over West Ham United and Swansea City.

Each of those games have come against sides currently in the bottom seven of the division, with home draws against Everton, Southampton and Stoke City in-between - enough to keep them inside the top half of the table in ninth place.

Albion have yet to win successive league games since returning to the top tier, ending their 34-year wait thanks to the work of Hughton last season, although with a third of this campaign played they are closer to the top six than the bottom three.

Hughton had mixed thoughts on the back of his side's most recent result - a 2-2 draw with Stoke on Monday night - as his side showed "character" to twice hit back after twice gifting the opposition a couple of "frustrating" goals.

Lessons will no doubt be learned ahead of this tricky assignment, as the Seagulls look for their first point against one of the division's elite sides, having so far lost 2-0 to Manchester City and 2-0 to Arsenal in the first few months.

The reward for Brighton should they pull off one of the biggest upsets of this or any other Premier League season is a likely place in the top eight, which really would leave supporters excited heading into the busy festive fixtures.

Recent form in Premier League: LDWDWD

Team News

Phil Jones receives treatment during the Premier League game between Huddersfield Town and Manchester United on October 21, 2017© SilverHub

Mourinho made seven changes for the trip to Switzerland, including a first start since September for Marouane Fellaini and a first appearance of any note since April for Marcos Rojo.

With key players beginning to return to fitness, having also welcomed back Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic this week, Mourinho now has some big selection decisions to make across the field.

Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are both currently struggling through injury, and Michael Carrick has been absent for the past two months, but the likes of Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Nemanja Matic and David de Gea are all pushing for recalls.

In terms of the visitors, Steve Sidwell is the only absentee, so Hughton is expected to go with something close to the same XI that played out the four-goal draw with Stoke earlier this week.

Summer signing Pascal Gross has proved to be a shrewd acquisition, meanwhile, playing a direct part in 62% of Brighton's Premier League goals so far this term - three of his own and a further five assists.

Elsewhere, Glen Murray has four goals in his last four games and Jose Izquierdo has also chipped in with a couple over the past month, including the second equaliser in the entertaining match against the Potters.

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Young; Matic, Pogba; Martial, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku

Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo; Gross; Murray

Head To Head

These two sides have met just 16 times down the years, dating back to their first encounter in 1909 when Man United came out on top 1-0 in an FA Cup tie.

The Red Devils have lost only one of those previous encounters - a 1-0 reverse in the old Division One 35 years ago, with Peter Ward netting a late winner on the south coast.

United prevailed by the same scoreline the last time they faced off, progressing through to the fifth round of the FA Cup thanks to a Ryan Giggs strike in January 1993.

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We say: Manchester United 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Mourinho's men are strong favourites to make it 11 wins from 11 at Old Trafford this season when they face Brighton for the first time in more than two decades, with a victory required to put a little pressure on Man City. The Seagulls are unbeaten in five and have fared well overall since returning to the top flight, but they have fallen to 2-0 defeats to City and Arsenal in their only other meetings with the division's elite.

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Paul Pogba reacts to his effort being saved during the Premier League game between Stoke City and Manchester United on September 9, 2017
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