Manchester United-Brighton & Hove Albion Preview
Needing a victory to reclaim fifth place in the table, in-form Manchester United look to run their unbeaten streak to 15 in all competitions Tuesday when they face Brighton and Hove Albion at the AMEX Stadium.
With fifth guaranteeing at worst Europa League play and potentially a spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds as Manchester City await a verdict on their two-year European ban by UEFA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it is now the spot in the table everyone is eyeing since Liverpool clinched the title.
Manchester United (13-10-8) are three points back of equally hard-charging Wolverhampton, but this is their match in hand on the Wolves. Additionally, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team enter the contest with a superior goal difference, so three points would put them back in fifth and also a mere three points behind third-place Leicester City.
The Red Devils left it late to reach the semifinals of the FA Cup on Saturday, winning 2-1 after extra time at Norwich City. Talisman Harry Maguire's goal in the 118th minute provided the winning margin as Manchester United became the first English team to reach the FA Cup semifinals 30 times.
"It just fell to me nicely on my left foot and it was a bit of a slide tackle with my left foot,"
Maguire told MUTV post-match after his club fired 36 shots. "You keep getting bodies in the box, you keep putting pressure on and you grind them down and eventually you're going to create a clear-cut chance. Thankfully, tonight it fell to me."
Odion Ighalo scored United's other marker, with the former Watford player extending an impressive strike rate outside of league play with five goals in just 408 minutes. Igahlo has yet to register a Premier League goal since his February arrival from China but has logged only 53 minutes in six matches as a reserve.
United are unbeaten in 14 (10-4-0) across all competitions, which includes nine matches (6-3-0) outside Old Trafford since a 2-0 defeat to champions Liverpool at Anfield on Jan. 19.
Brighton and Hove Albion (7-12-2) are tenuously in 15th place entering this match, with a small margin of error above the four-team relegation scrap that will claim two teams. The Seagulls have held their own since Project Restart with four points in two matches and are coming off a hard-earned point following a draw at Leicester City last Tuesday.
Albion limited the Foxes to two shots on target, but also failed to make the most of their lone effort on goal as Neil Maupay had his penalty snuffed out by Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel in the first half. While Graham Potter's team have just one victory in their last 11 matches, they are finding ways to grind out points as Tuesday's result was their seventh draw in that span.
"You want to challenge yourself against the best, like we have done in our last two matches, and now we have another opportunity to play well again," midfielder Leandro Trossard told Brighton's official website. "The key for us has probably been the belief in ourselves as a group that we can take points off anyone in the division. The comeback against Arsenal really showed that, we kept going until the last seconds to win the match and it's proved to be massive for our confidence."
Albion have been a more forward-moving side at home compared to the road. They have had nine or more shots in their last eight league matches at the AMEX, but the results have not always reflected their creativity – Brighton are 2-4-2 in those matches and have claimed 21 points from their 15 games at home.
Potter's side have two wins and a draw from their first three home matches against the Big Six.
It is Manchester United, though, who are looking to do the double following a 3-1 victory in mid-November as goals by Anders Pereira and Scott McTominay inside the first 20 minutes set the Red Devils on their way. Lewis Dunk pulled one back for Brighton on 64 minutes, only for Marcus Rashford to restore the two-goal bulge two minutes later.
Brighton have won both home matches over United since earning their promotion in 2017, including a 3-2 triumph in last season's corresponding fixture.
Updated June 28, 2020