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Match Preview: Manchester United vs Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton face a tough test in their opening match of the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, with the Seagulls set to face a rejuvenated Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.

The Seagulls go into Sunday’s curtain raiser at Old Trafford on the back of a relatively successful pre- season, having won three out of five friendlies contested in July. In their most recent fixture, the Albion secured their biggest win of the summer schedule, brushing aside Spanish opposition in the form of Espanyol with a comfortable 5-1 victory at the Amex.

Alongside this, supporters of the Seagulls will be encouraged by the manner in which their side ended last season. The Albion concluded their most recent league campaign by avoiding defeat in their final five fixtures, with their last league defeat coming in April away to eventual champions Manchester City.

There is also great encouragement for Graham Potters’ side ahead of Sunday’s opener with regards to their forwards, particularly that of Belgian winger Leandro Trossard. The 27-year-old played an outstanding role in the Seagull’s demolition of Espanyol last Saturday, ending the game with three goals and an assist in front of the Albion’s faithful at the Amex.

In similar fashion to the Seagulls, Manchester United come into Sunday’s encounter in strong spirits as a result of a relatively successful pre-season. The Red Devils lost just once over the course of six friendlies contested in July, a run of form which saw them humiliate Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in a four-goal thrashing. However, unlike the Albion, Manchester United were unable to conclude their pre-season schedule with a victory, having drawn at home to Spanish side Rayo Vallecano last Sunday.

In similar fashion to Sunday’s visitors once more, there is great reason for Manchester United supporters to feel encouraged by the manner in which their forwards have performed in pre-season, notably that of Marcus Rashford. The 24-year-old forward netted twice for the Red Devils during their pre-season schedule, an encouraging factor if the young forward is to improve on his tally of four goals from the previous campaign. Alongside this, Rashford ended the pre- season schedule with just one goal less than joint top scorers Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho, providing supporters of the Red Devils with great hope that Rashford can reignite his career during the Ten Hag dynasty.

However, it is important to acknowledge the manner in which Manchester United concluded their most recent league campaign. The Red Devils suffered a disastrous end to last season with just one victory in their final five fixtures, a run of form which saw them humiliated by Sunday’s visitors Brighton in a 4-0 defeat at the Amex. In addition to this, the Red Devils ranked 8th out of 20 last season for goals scored, concluding a disappointing campaign with just 57 goals. Whilst it must be remembered that Manchester United are yet to commence their new league campaign, statistics such as these will undoubtably provide a great cause of concern for Ten Hag ahead of Sunday’s opener.

Alongside this, Manchester United’s goal scoring woes could be worsened this weekend, given the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential departure. The 37-year-old forward, who netted the most times for Manchester United last season with 18 goals, is said to have handed in a transfer request to the club in July after a disappointing start to his second spell with the Red Devils. Whilst Cristiano is still a Manchester United player, his current stance with the club means that the possibility of a Cristiano cameo against Brighton is unlikely.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential departure is not the only transfer saga surrounding Sunday’s curtain raiser, with Brighton’s Marc Cucurella rumoured to be departing the South Coast club. The Spanish left- back, who’s efforts in the previous campaign guided Brighton to a record high league finish, is rumoured to be departing the Seagulls for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, with the West London Club meeting Brighton’s asking price of £50 million. Therefore, given the Seagull’s current transfer saga, it appears Graham Potter will be unable to call on Cucurella for the Albion’s opening fixture at Old Trafford.

Whilst Ten Hag’s first competitive fixture at Old Trafford appears to be a difficult encounter to call, supporters of the Red Devils will undoubtably be wary of the threat posed by Sunday’s visitors. The Seagulls humiliated Sunday’s hosts in their most recent encounter, with the Albion cruising to a four-goal victory on the South coast. However, Manchester United supporters will be encouraged by the fact that, in their 19 previous encounters across all competitions, the Albion have never won at Old Trafford. Therefore, with the possibility of a first ever victory at Old Trafford looming large for both Brighton and Erik Ten Hag, Sunday’s curtain raiser promises to provide a thrilling opening to the new league campaign.

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