In a repeat of Erik ten Hag’s first match in the Premier League, we look forward to Thursday’s duel at the Amex Stadium with our Brighton vs Manchester United prediction and stats preview.
Brighton vs Manchester Utd: Quick Stats
- Everything points to this being a close encounter, with Man Utd only given a 35.5% win probability by the Opta supercomputer.
- Man United have lost on three of their past five visits to the Amex Stadium in the Premier League.
- Since the start of the 2017-18 season, only Mohamed Salah has scored more league goals against Man Utd than Pascal Groß.
It was a fresh, sunny summer’s day in Manchester on 7 August. There was a buzz around Old Trafford as Manchester United began a(nother) new era. The positivity inspired by new signings and the new manager was palpable, and as Erik ten Hag applauded supporters while emerging from the tunnel, the roar of optimism was difficult to ignore.
But the atmosphere didn’t last as Brighton played the role of party poopers, with Ten Hag given a sharp reminder of the task in front of him as United succumbed 2-1, making him the first United manager to lose his opening Premier League game since Louis van Gaal in 2014.
The two clubs renew hostilities on Thursday at the Amex Stadium as Brighton aim for a first ever league double over the Red Devils, but much has changed for both in the interim. While the Seagulls have arguably got even better despite a change of their own in the dugout, United are far more cohesive than they were in August.
United’s improvement is even quantifiable, to a degree. During those early weeks of the season they resembled a rabble who’d do well to qualify for the Europa League, let alone the Champions League. Yet, ahead of the trip to Brighton, the Opta supercomputer puts their chances of securing a top-four spot at 95.7%, and victory will see them go up to third above Newcastle United.
Ten Hag will be taking nothing for granted, however. This promises to be a thorough examination of their progress at a stadium where they’ve come unstuck before. In five visits to Brighton in the Premier League, Man Utd have lost three times – that loss rate of 60% is their highest at any ground they’ve visited more than once in the competition.
It’s also worth bearing in mind Brighton’s own situation. While challenging for European places might be new to them, they’ve rarely looked fazed on the big occasion this term and are right in the thick of a battle for UEFA Europa League qualification.
Currently eighth in the Premier League, Brighton have at least two games in hand on the three teams directly above them, and none are more than four points ahead. The Opta prediction model gives them a 61.4% chance of finishing either fifth or sixth, and they’ll be desperate to further their Europe bid in front of a raucous Amex Stadium crowd.
Both sides have lengthy injury lists, but there still promises to be plenty of attacking talent on display in a fixture that’s produced some corkers in recent years.
Manchester United will still be without the majority of their first-choice central defenders Lisandro Martínez, Raphael Varane while midfielders Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek will also be missing. Brighton could welcome back young striker Evan Ferguson following his ankle injury, but they’ll definitely be without Adam Lallana, Jakub Moder, Jeremy Sarmiento, Joel Veltman and Tariq Lamptey.
Brighton 0-0 Man Utd (aet, 6-7 on pens): 23 April 2023 (FA Cup)
Admittedly, this one probably doesn’t qualify as a “corker”.
While the August fixture will be reflected upon heavily over the next day or so because of its significance as Ten Hag’s first official game in charge of United, the two clubs of course met only a couple of weeks ago.
United came through an FA Cup penalty shootout for the first time in their history after the two sides could not be separated over 120 minutes in the second semi-final.
Brighton arguably shaded the match, but both sides were guilty of being a little wasteful, which ultimately cost the Seagulls in the shootout as Solly March blazed his effort over to tee up Victor Lindelof for the decisive kick.
As such, United reached a record-equalling 21st FA Cup final – level with Arsenal – and ensured they reached the showpiece of both domestic cups for only the third time ever after 1982-83 and 1993-94.
But as disappointed Brighton would become, they showed enough in their performance to suggest United will be pushed hard on Thursday.
Revenge is on the cards.
As good as Ten Hag’s United can be, questions remain regarding their mentality and performances against the Premier League’s best opposition.
So, although they’re unbeaten in their past five league games, only failing to win against Tottenham, their record away to teams starting the day in the top half of the table leaves a lot to be desired.
They’ve won just one of their last 13 such games (D3 L9), and that was way back in November when Alejandro Garnacho’s tribute to Cristiano Ronaldo at Craven Cottage secured a dramatic 2-1 win.
Additionally, United haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of those 13 matches since winning 3-0 away to Spurs in October 2021.
Brighton’s own form has been a little patchier in recent weeks. After beginning 2023 with a run of one defeat in 11 Premier League games, propelling them into Europa League contention, they have since lost two of four. The caveat? They demolished Wolves 6-0 at the weekend, scoring six in a top-flight game for the time first.
In fact, they’ve only been stopped from scoring once in the league since October, whereas United have kept seven clean sheets in their last 10 Premier League matches, a figure no side can better over the same period.
Something’s got to give.
Brighton: Pascal Groß
Brighton’s Swiss Army Knife (well, he’s German, but still), Groß has been a revelation since joining in 2017 for the modest fee of £3million.
He was one of the three players to score a brace against Wolves on Saturday, taking his tally for the campaign to eight in the Premier League, which is already a personal best. But, perhaps more pertinently, Groß just has a habit of scoring against United.
He’s netted against them six times in the league, more than he has versus any other opponent. In fact, since he joined, Mohamed Salah is the only player to score more times (10) against the Red Devils than Groß.
It’s not just goals, though. Generally, Groß has some kind of impact in meetings with United, his creativity causing them plenty of issues in last month’s FA Cup duel, his five chances created two more than anyone else on the pitch.
Manchester United: Casemiro
Lindelof and Luke Shaw have largely impressed as a centre-back pairing since Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez were ruled out.
But United can expect to come under real pressure at times on Thursday, so the centre-backs will need all the protection they can get.
Casemiro is a massive step up in that respect from the likes of Scott McTominay and Fred because he’s so good at so much. Clearly, though, it’ll be his combativeness that United will require against a dynamic and talented Brighton midfield.
We need only look back to their FA Cup meeting to highlight just how effective he can be, recording a combined 13 tackles and interceptions – that’s the most any United player has managed in a single game this season; admittedly helped by an extra 30 minutes, but still impressive nonetheless.
Casemiro’s importance is further illustrated by the fact that United have lost more often in the 10 games he’s missed (four) than in the 22 league matches that he’s played (three) across 2022-23.
Of course, those stats are embellished by the fact United played for 120 minutes. But in the context of that game, there was no doubt how important he is to Ten Hag’s team, and the manager will need one of his most dependable lieutenants to step up again on Thursday.
Brighton vs Man Utd Prediction
The Opta supercomputer perfectly contextualises how difficult this game could be for Man Utd. Their 35.5% win probability is just a fraction more than Brighton’s 35.4%, which therefore means the draw comes in at 29.1%.
In other words, this is extremely hard to call in every way.
Brighton have a decent recent midweek (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) record, winning three of their last four such matches, while United are unbeaten in nine Premier League away games played on a Thursday, stretching all the way back to December 2002 when they lost to Middlesbrough.
Neutrals might be tempted to lean towards Brighton, however, given they’ve won each of the teams’ past two meetings, including a 4-0 hammering at the Amex Stadium at the end of last season.
If they do win, it’ll be the first time they’ve ever won three successive league meetings with United – but perhaps the unusual nature of such an achievement swings the pendulum back in favour of the Red Devils.
Either way, avoid defeat and it’ll be another big step towards top-four confirmation for Ten Hag at the end of a debut season that began so poorly against the same opponents.