Following defeat in their first match of the new season, Manchester United will hope to get some points on the board when they travel south to take on Brighton at the AMEX Stadium on Saturday (7.30am ET).
After sitting out the opening weekend of action, Man Utd got their campaign off to a very poor start with a 1-3 defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday. It took just one fixture for the 14-match unbeaten run with which they ended the 2019-20 season to come to an end.
It wasn’t a case of bad fortune. As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted in his post-match press conference, Palace were much the sharper side. After going ahead early on, they were able to fairly comfortably withstand the pressure that followed. United got off a good number of shots, but very few from genuinely threatening positions.
Donny van de Beek was able to open his account for the club following his £35 million move from Ajax with an 80th minute strike but by then Palace had added a second from the penalty spot. Just five minutes later, they scored another on the break to consign Man Utd to defeat definitively.
Solskjaer’s side finished third last season and both the bookmakers and the publicly available statistical models had them locked in as a favored side to at least secure another top-four finish this time around. They will, though, have to play much better than they did against Palace if they are to make good on that, especially given the strong start that Leicester, probably their most viable competitor, have made to the campaign.
Visually at least, United improved as a team down the final stretch of last season, with the January arrival of Bruno Fernandes adding some needed creativity in the final third and Mason Greenwood emerging on the scene with five goals in their last seven matches. They benefited from some positive variance in relation to their underlying numbers, which always cast doubt over the idea that they might be able to close in on the top two in 2020-21.
We are only one match into the campaign and it would be foolish to draw any sweeping conclusions at this stage. The reality remains that if their top-line results begin to drift back towards their less impressive metrics, underlying performance levels will have to improve if they are to fend off challenges from behind and hold onto their top-four slot.
Brighton certainly won’t give them an easy ride. Graham Potter’s side were slightly unfortunate to lose to Chelsea in an even encounter in their league opener. The Seagulls then comfortably saw off a very complacent Newcastle 3-0 away from home last weekend.
Two goals inside the opening seven minutes from Neal Maupay, the first of them from the penalty spot, gave Brighton an advantage they never looked liked relinquishing thereafter. Newcastle didn’t even get a shot off until just before half-time and even that was blocked before it got anywhere near Mat Ryan’s goal. They mustered just five more over the course of the 90 minutes. A late third from Aaron Connolly wrapped up a deserved away win.
Potter completely changed Brighton’s approach after replacing Chris Hughton last summer, moving them up the pitch from their previous deep block defence to more proactively contest the ball, while focusing their attacking play around swift interchanges and movement in behind. Brighton still finished in lower mid-table (15th, up from 17th) but there was improvement at both ends of the pitch and they were 10 goals better off on goal difference.
The hope for this season will be to build on that improvement and wrestle Brighton further towards an even goal difference and the upper mid-table position that comes with it. Some solid transfer market work and their first pair of performances suggest that is possible.
Our Betting Preview’s Brighton vs Manchester United Predictions & Picks Verdict
Manchester United got the better of Brighton in both of last season’s encounters, winning 3-1 at Old Trafford and 3-0 away at the AMEX, but that latter encounter, played in late June, was a pretty tight one in which finishing was the primary difference between the two sides. Neither really created great chances. If Saturday’s match follows a similar pattern, Brighton have a solid chance of coming away with a point or more. Our BHAFC vs MUFC predictions end with one betting pick:
- Bet on Brighton +0.5 of a goal on the spread @ +105 with Bovada.