Manchester United will hope to build on their win over Brentford when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Just two games remain for Manchester United to end a tumultuous season. And with chances of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League almost negligible, the Red Devils will lock horns with Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Saturday evening, with the Seagulls hoping to get close to sealing a top-half finish.

Brighton & Hove Albion have done well to end their near-two-month long slump, which saw them lose six games on the bounce and play out a 0-0 draw with Norwich City. The Seagulls have lost only one of their last six games, with the solitary defeat coming in a hard-fought battle against Manchester City. The positive run of results has helped Graham Potter’s men move up to ninth on the table.

On the other hand, Manchester United’s forgettable season will soon end with a sixth-placed finish. The Red Devils are highly unlikely to end up fourth on the table unless things go dramatically wrong for Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. But Manchester United can hope for a favour from Liverpool and Arsenal to possibly finish fifth, although they must win their remaining two games to hope to do so.

The reverse fixture ended in a 2-0 win for Manchester United, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes on target, while Brighton captain Lewis Dunk saw red. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Brighton & Hove Albion

Graham Potter has a new injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Saturday, the Brighton & Hove Albion manager will be bereft of the services of three first-team players due to various fitness issues.

Enock Mwepu is the latest absentee for Brighton after sustaining a season-ending groin injury last weekend against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Zambian international has joined Jakub Moder (knee) and Jeremy Sarmiento (hamstring) on the sidelines.

Pascal Gross could come into the side to replace the injured Mwepu, with the German midfielder starting alongside Yves Bissouma and Moises Caicedo in a midfield unit that will adopt a defence-first approach to contain the threat of Bruno Fernandes and Juan Mata. But Gross and Caicedo will also carry a threat during the transitions.

Joel Veltman, Lewis Dunk and Marc Cucurella should form the central defensive unit that will aim to keep a lid on Cristiano Ronaldo’s output. The trio will cover Robert Sanchez in the Brighton goal. Tariq Lamptey and Leandro Trossard will be the two wing-backs, with the latter a player reborn in the new role as the left wing-back.

Danny Welbeck holds the record of being the highest-scoring player against Manchester United in Premier League history among those who have previously played for the Red Devils in the competition. And he will hope to extend that record when he spearheads the Brighton attack on Saturday. Alexis Mac Allister will play off the former Manchester United striker on Saturday.

Probable Lineup (3-5-1-1): Sanchez; Veltman, Dunk, Cucurella; Lamptey, Gross, Bissouma, Caicedo, Trossard; Mac Allister; Welbeck

Manchester United

Ralf Rangnick has greeted a mixed bag of updates on the team news front ahead of the trip to the Amex Stadium to take on Brighton & Hove Albion. The Manchester United interim manager will be without six first-team players on Saturday.

The good news is that Harry Maguire will be available after training this week after recovering from a knee injury. Aaron Wan-Bissaka should also be at Rangnick’s disposal after overcoming a knock. But the duo will unlikely find a place in the Manchester United starting eleven, with Diogo Dalot starting as the right-back, and Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof will form the central defensive partnership.

Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford is the latest absentee as he is suffering from bronchitis that will likely keep him out until the final day of the Premier League season. Meanwhile, Eric Bailly could be missing due to a lower back injury. Rashford and Bailly have joined Luke Shaw (leg), Paul Pogba (calf) and Jadon Sancho (illness) on the sidelines, while Mason Greenwood remains suspended by Manchester United.

In Rashford and Sancho’s absence, Juan Mata could get another chance to impress after a stellar showing in the 3-0 win over Brentford earlier this week. Mata might be reaching the end of the line at Manchester United but will aim to call time on his stint with the Red Devils on a high.

Cristiano Ronaldo will spearhead the Manchester United attack against Brentford, with Bruno Fernandes playing behind his compatriot in a free role. Fernandes and Mata will alternate between the right-wing and the no. 10 berth, while Anthony Elanga is a shoo-in for the left-wing berth.

Fred and Scott McTominay should form the double-pivot in the middle of the park, with Nemanja Matic dropping to the bench to make way for the former. Finally, Alex Telles is an automatic starter at left-back in Shaw’s absence, while David de Gea picks himself between the sticks for Manchester United.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles; McTominay, Fred; Mata, Fernandes, Elanga; Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • After being victorious in two of their first three Premier League games against Manchester United, Brighton & Hove Albion have lost their last six versus the Red Devils. Manchester United have won their most recent seven meetings with Brighton in all competitions, their longest ongoing winning run against another current Premier League side.
  • Brighton have won three of their most recent five Premier League games (D1 L1), as many as they had in their previous 25 (D13 L9). However, each of their last five victories has come away from home, with only five clubs having a run of six wins without any coming at home (most recently Liverpool in the 2020/21 season).
  • Manchester United have lost each of their last four Premier League away games, as many as they had in their previous 42 on the road. That is their longest run of consecutive away league defeats since a run of six between December 1980 and March 1981.
  • Manchester United are winless in their last four Premier League games against opponents starting the day in the top half of the table (D2 L2). They last had a longer winless run against such opposition between September and December 2016 under Jose Mourinho (D3 L2).
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 18 goals in 29 appearances for Manchester United in the Premier League this season, as many as he did in his final season at the club before leaving for Real Madrid (18 in 33 appearances in 2008/09). The last player to score more than 18 in a Premier League season for the Red Devils was Robin van Persie in 2012/13 (26).

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

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Cristiano Ronaldo has done well to prove his naysayers wrong since returning from compassionate leave last month. The Portuguese forward has netted six goals in his most recent four outings, with his form compelling Ralf Rangnick to urge Erik ten Hag to utilise him next season.

Ronaldo is now within touching distance of Mohamed Salah at the top of the Premier League Golden Boot race. And one thing that one can be sure of is that Ronaldo produces his best when he has the chance to win a goalscoring honour in a season. So while Liverpool will play two more games than Manchester United, Ronaldo will aim to end the season with a flurry of goals.

Prediction

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Manchester United

Manchester United will fancy finishing fifth, now that the prospect of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League is all but over. The Red Devils will play in the Europa League next season unless West Ham United can pull a rabbit out of the hat following their ouster from the second tier of European football.

But Brighton & Hove Albion will present an uphill task for Manchester United to win on Saturday. However, the Seagulls have failed to win their last eight Premier League home games (D4 L4) since a 2-0 victory over Brentford on Boxing Day. And that run could continue on Saturday, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo looking purposeful in his performances.

Ronaldo will make the difference for Manchester United again on Saturday, helping his side clinch a hard-fought win that will help them go level on points with Tottenham Hotspur ahead of Spurs’ clash against Liverpool on Saturday. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Manchester United.

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