Victory for Manchester United tonight – and Brighton have never won at Old Trafford in 13 visits – and they open up a nine-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea and an 11-point margin over sixth-placed Liverpool in their quest to secure a Champions League place with eight games to go. One suspects, given the title race is over, will be United’s main motivation and then they can focus on the Europa League and FA Cup.
Brighton will be looking over their shoulder for the rest of the campaign, though, should they lose. Newcastle’s performance today and Fulham’s general improvement (this is being written before the Villa-Fulham match) means it could be a nipper all the way to the wire despite back-to-back victories over Newcastle and Southampton. They’ve still got Wolves, Sheffield United, Leeds and West Ham to play, however, all teams they have taken points off already this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United’s players are approaching the match with “bright eyes” given their admiration for a side that can make life difficult this weekend.
Solskjaer says Brighton’s two victories have caught the eye at United, who needed a contentious Bruno Fernandes penalty that was taken after the final whistle to seal a 3-2 win at the Amex in September.
“Since I came we’ve played them quite a few times and we’ve always had some hard-fought games, difficult games,” Solskjaer said. “When you prepare for a game against Brighton you can see all our players with bright eyes because they really respect the way they play and the quality that they’ve had against us.
“We know that we have to be on our best to earn the right to play because you have to work really hard to get the ball off them.”
David De Gea started the Premier League win in East Sussex, with Dean Henderson getting the nod for the 3-0 Carabao Cup win at the Amex just days later.
The latter has started United’s last six matches in all competitions after the Spain international returned to his homeland for the birth of his first child, with Solskjaer facing a “difficult decision” as to who to start on Sunday.
“The two keepers will probably be needed in these last nine plus hopefully five more games,” Solskjaer said. “Both know that we value them both really highly.
“It’s a difficult decision to leave one of them out. It’s an easy decision to give them the nod and ‘you’ll play’.
“The difficult one is to leave one of them out but it’s a good decision to make, so you’ll probably see both of them.”
Solskjaer currently has doubts over three forwards: Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood returned to training on Friday but need assessing after Saturday’s session, while a reported knee injury picked up on international duty with France means Anthony Martial is a doubt.
Victor Lindelof also needs assessing to see if he can form part of the defence.
Brighton are without the injured Tariq Lamptey, Adam Webster, Florin Andone and Solly March.