Manchester United V Brighton Preview : The FA Cup is United's last chance of silverware!
- Old Trafford
- Kick off: 19:45
- BT Sport
Arsenal have won the FA Cup in three of the last four years, but the one side to break their recent monopoly in that time was Manchester United in Louis van Gaal's final season at the club. Jose Mourinho continued the club's proud tradition of winning silverware in his first season with the club when he claimed the EFL Cup and the Europa League, but this term has proved more of a challenge. They failed to retain the Carabao Cup and Sevilla knocked them out of the Champions League during the week. Now, being 16 points behind local rivals Manchester City in the race for the Premier League with just eight games left, the FA Cup has become the most important thing left in their season - along with finishing inside the top four. For Brighton, surviving in the Premier League is their primary thought and as they sit seven points clear of the drop zone, they can afford to dream of making it to Wembley.
At the end of the day, Manchester United should not have lost to Sevilla in the knockout stages of the Champions League. It's that simple. It's one thing for Arsenal to never get past that stage for countless years because of encounters with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, but United have a far superior team man for man than Sevilla and the Spanish side didn't threaten too much over the two legs. United just failed to get out of first gear and whether that was because Sevilla played their part of they simply failed to rise to the challenge is up for debate. Paul Pogba came off the bench in midweek to produce one of the worst displays in a Man United shirt yet and when he is not on song, Marouane Fellaini, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic are not the penetrative talents that United need. It's no secret that Alexis Sanchez has struggled since joining the club in January and the longer he struggles on the left-hand side the more questions will be raised as to why two sensational talents like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have to split time on the bench so the £500,000-a-week Chilean can underperform. Romelu Lukaku has been holding his end of the bargain as of late and he will look to bully Brighton.
Hughton does it again
Chris Hughton has done a pretty fine job wherever he has been in his career and he has never really been given the credit. At Newcastle, he took them to the Premier League at this first time of asking - cleaning a mess that wasn't his - he then stabilised Norwich as a top-flight side and led them to an 11th place finish before being sacked the next season. Then, he led Brighton to promotion from the Championship for the first time ever when they were not billed as favourites, but he duly delivered. Glenn Murray has been in sensational form as of late and his goals have earned them valuable wins against the likes of Swansea and Arsenal. Those six points have made all the difference in their fight against relegation and because of their attacking instincts, they have a chance in any game. Lewis Dunk has also been impressive at the back for the Seagulls and the way he plays the ball out of defence typifies the ethos Hughton has employed at the club. Can they combat United at Old Trafford? Brighton will try and match United in a pure football match and after their victory over Arsenal the other week, they have more than displayed that they are capable.
What they are saying
Brighton go into this game with every chance of picking up a result and Hughton has no plans to rest his troops: "I have decisions to make, of course, but I'm also very conscious it's Manchester United at Old Trafford. It's one of the toughest games we could have and in any way that we are going to win it we've got to put in a performance that will give us a chance. So if anything I will look to put out the strongest side that I can to get a result." Hughton will be without Anthony Knockaert for the game with United after his ridiculous two-footed lunge against Everton resulted in a red card and he is not happy: “It’s always very much within the club in how we deal with it, but he will miss three games. At this stage of the season it is, of course, important for us as a club but also him as an individual. If you are looking at sacrifices that are made he will miss three games.”
Following their exit from the Champions League, Jose Mourinho was at his deflective best: "I've sat in this chair twice before in the Champions League, and I knock Man Utd out at home twice, with Porto - Man Utd out, and with Real Madrid - Man Utd out. So this is nothing new for this football club. I don't want to make a drama out of it, we don't have time for that. We have a match on Saturday, we have no time to be sad for more than 24 hours. And that's football, it's not the end of the world." Mourinho finished his post-Sevilla press conference by insisting losing is part of the natural process, and when asked what needs to change, he said: "Everything, everything together. Everybody spends money right, it's not just us, right? It's a natural process. I don't have regrets. I did my best, the players did their best, we tried, we lost, and that's football."
Manchester United will want to win the FA Cup, there is no doubt about that right now and Jose Mourinho has shown in previous seasons that silverware, no matter what it is, is very valuable to him. It makes a winning culture and Mourinho needs trophies to keep his luster. The Red Devils aren't playing their best football right now, but they did beat Liverpool last weekend and with a host of players with something to prove, it could be the recipe for a great game. Brighton have nothing to lose as the certain underdogs, but United will be too strong.
- Man United have the second best defensive record in the league
- Brighton are the joint-third lowest goalscorers in the league
- Man United beat Brighton 1-0 at Old Trafford earlier in the season
- Brighton haven't beaten Man United since 1982
- Brighton have won three of their last five games, including beating Arsenal