Manchester United will be aiming to kickstart their 2022/23 Premier League campaign on a winning note when they face Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
The Erik ten Hag era will officially get underway at Old Trafford this weekend as Manchester United lock horns with Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League in what will be their first competitive match with the Dutchman in charge.
After an abysmal campaign, when they finished outside the top four and achieved their lowest ever points tally in the Premier League, Manchester United were quick to ring in the changes, handing over the first-team reins to Ten Hag, who had achieved great success at Ajax previously. Things, however, have not been smooth sailing for the Dutch tactician as the Red Devils continue to be mired in problems.
The future of Cristiano Ronaldo has dominated the headlines, while their inability to close transfer deals has been another issue. The pre-season started positively with wins against Liverpool, Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace, but United then went three games without a win, losing to Atletico Madrid and being held to draws by Aston Villa and Rayo Vallecano. So it will be vital for Ten Hag’s men to start the campaign with a win to generate optimism among the fans.
As for Brighton, they come into the new campaign on the back of a solid pre-season during which they won three of their five friendlies and lost just one, with their most recent fixture ending in a 5-1 win over Espanyol. Having finished just five points shy of seventh-placed West Ham United last season, Brighton will be hoping to go a step further and secure qualification for European football for the next year.
Graham Potter’s side have done some interesting business in the window, banking on youth but the exits of Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella ought to hurt. Having beaten Manchester United 4-0 in their last meeting in May, Brighton will be pushing to repeat those heroics on Sunday.
Ahead of what could be an entertaining clash between two teams who will look to play on the front foot, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 5, 2022
Manchester United have been dealt with an injury blow leading up to their season opener as striker Anthony Martial, who was one of their in-form players in pre-season, has been ruled out. Brandon Williams is also unavailable for selection, but Luke Shaw has recovered sufficiently from his injury issue to be fit for the clash.
New signings Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen are all expected to feature in some capacity against the Seagulls. Erik ten Hag has largely used the 4-2-3-1 setup since taking over the reins at Old Trafford and should stick with the same formation on Sunday afternoon.
David de Gea remains the undisputed starter in goal, while Harry Maguire, who has been retained as the club captain, should start alongside Martinez at the heart of the defence. Diogo Dalot and Malacia should be the starting full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively and will have the license to push forward and provide width.
With not many options in the centre of the park, Ten Hag is likely to continue with Scott McTominay and Fred as his preferred pairing in the double pivot on Sunday. The creative onus will largely fall on the shoulders of Bruno Fernandes, operating in the No. 10 role.
Jadon Sancho looked bright in the pre-season, with some of his link-up play with Diogo Dalot in the right-side channel catching the eye, while he can be equally dangerous coming in from the left. He is a certain starter on one of the flanks.
With Martial injured and Cristiano Ronaldo lacking match sharpness, Marcus Rashford could be tasked with leading the line for the Red Devils, while Anthony Elanga is likely to complete the attacking trident.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Malacia; McTominay, Fred; Elanga, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford
Brighton &Hove Albion
Jakub Moder is the only confirmed absentee for Graham Potter to contend with ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. Other than that, Brighton have a clean bill of health and will be pushing for an upset win against their illustrious opponents. Alexis Mac Allister will be available for selection after recovering from a groin injury.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) August 6, 2022
Brighton should line up in their usual 3-4-2-1 formation against Manchester United. As iterated earlier, the departures of Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella will sting and take something out of the way the team operate and Potter will have to address that as he looks to take the game to Manchester United.
Robert Sanchez is a guaranteed starter in goal for the Seagulls, with Joel Veltman, Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster forming the three-man backline shielding the Spaniard. Tariq Lamptey, who has interestingly been linked with Manchester United this summer, will be the right-sided wing-back and carry a significant attacking threat. Solly March should occupy the opposite flank following Cucurella’s exit.
Enock Mwepu and Pascal Gross, who has scored four goals against Manchester United, will occupy the central midfield region and look to keep the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Fred from getting time on the ball to dictate play. Leandro Trossard and the fit-again Mac Allister should line up as the two attacking midfielders, supporting ex-Red Devil Danny Welbeck in the No. 9 role.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Sanchez; Veltman, Dunk, Webster; Lamptey, Mwepu, Gross, March; Trossard, Mac Allister; Welbeck
- Manchester United have won their first Premier League match in 10 of the past 13 seasons (L3), including a 5-1 against Leeds United last term.
- Brighton have lost six of their previous seven Premier League games against Manchester United but recorded a resounding 4-0 win against the Red Devils in their latest meeting in May.
- Erik ten Hag will be the eighth manager (including caretakers) to take charge of Manchester United in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Six of the previous seven won their first match in charge.
- Brighton have lost all ten Premier League games they have played in Manchester – five against United and City each.
- Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes has four goals and two assists in five Premier League appearances against Brighton.
Player to Watch
The last time Cristiano Ronaldo played against Brighton in the Premier League.
He did THIS.
— The CR7 Timeline. (@TimelineCR7) August 6, 2022
Heading into the new season, Cristiano Ronaldo’s future has been a topic of major debate. The 37-year-old returned to Old Trafford last summer and finished as Manchester United’s leading goalscorer with 24 goals, even though the team struggled. However, faced with the prospect of not playing in the Champions League, the Portuguese maverick has reportedly decided he wants out and is looking for an exit.
Ronaldo missed almost the entirety of Manchester United’s pre-season, playing only 45 minutes in the last friendly against Rayo Vallecano, following which he attracted more controversy for leaving Old Trafford mid-match after being substituted.
Erik ten Hag has admitted that the club legend is still not at the required level with regard to his fitness and match sharpness, which could see him be benched on Sunday despite Anthony Martial’s absence. Irrespective of whether he starts or is a substitute, there is no denying that all eyes will be on Ronaldo when Manchester United start the season against Brighton.
Manchester United 1-1 Brighton
Erik ten Hag has come in and made some changes to the way Manchester United set up and operate, signs of which have been evident in the pre-season. However, they are still far from the finished article, as was visible in their final few friendlies. Meanwhile, Brighton & Hove Albion, under Graham Potter, have grown into a good team and showed last season that they can go toe-to-toe with the biggest clubs.
Having trumped the Red Devils 4-0 in their last meeting, the Seagulls will back themselves to get a positive result at Old Trafford. It is a tricky one to call and could go either way, depending on which version of Manchester United show up on the day. A stalemate with shared points could be a viable outcome.