51 min If Brighton win tonight they will be nine points clear of the relegation zone. They’re an extremely impressive side.
48 min “Hello Rob,” says Stephen Carr. “Re Geoff’s offering – my father in law used ‘wallop’ as a generic term for any type of beer. Furthermore, in my pomp, I enjoyed a pint or seven of ‘Golden’, which was a delightful combo of shite lager and even shiter bitter. GOOD TIMES.”
47 min Shaw plays a nice one-two with Rashford and drills a low cross that is calmly intercepted at the near post by Dunk. United’s tempo looks better at the start of the second half.
46 min Rashford makes a beeline for the penalty area and is well challenged by White. Fred then has a long-range shot blocked by Bissouma.
Half time: Manchester United 0-1 Brighton
Peep peep! Brighton are 45 minutes away from a first-ever victory at Old Trafford. They have been the better side – smarter, classier, more confident – and lead through Danny Welbeck’s header against his old club. United haven’t had a shot on target, though Mason Greenwood hit the outside of the post early on.
45+1 min Gross’s corner from the right is missed at the near post and bounces up towards Moder, whose volley hits Rashford and dribbles just wide.
45 min Trossard plays a clever little pass to Lallana, who lifts it over Lindelof on the edge of the area. The ball almost runs through to Maupay, but Maguire comes across to make a vital interception.
43 min Brighton are defending very deep, a tactic that has worked perfectly so far. United might need the lock-picking skills of Donny van de Beek if it carries on like this. What they really need, but don’t have, is width.
43 min Pogba plays a terrific ball to release Wan-Bissaka, whose cross is headed away by Bissouma. Greenwood picks up the loose ball on the edge of the area but takes too long and is dispossessed by Lallana.
40 min Maupay wins a corner for Brighton, who continue to play the smoother football. Gross swings it out and somebody in red heads clear.
38 min A half chance for Pogba, who sidefoots well wide from the edge of the area after a good pass from Fernandes.
36 min Greenwood releases Wan-Bissaka on the right for the first time in the game. He hammers a low cross that is cleared at the near post by Bissouma. That wasn’t great from Wan-Bissaka, whose attacking ability is becoming a problem for United.
34 min “Hadn’t we established ages ago that United play so much better when Fred and McTominay play in front of the defence and Fernandes has more of a licence to orchestrate attacks?” says Kevin Wilson. “Every time this is disrupted to bring Pogba in, things go wrong.”
While I know what you mean, I don’t think that’s been United’s problem today. Their passing has been crap, and McTominay for Pogba isn’t going to improve that.
31 min Cavani misses a chance to put Rashford through, overhitting a relatively straightforward pass. That sums up a sloppy performance from United so far.
28 min Brighton’s defence is extremely narrow, which is an effective tactic against a United team who, with the exception of Luke Shaw, don’t really have the ability to get round the back.
27 min Gross’s corner is dropped by Henderson, who is very relieved to see it fall to Maguire rather than one of the Brighton players. He looks unconvincing on corners; Brighton have been deliberately dropping them right under the crossbar.
26 min United’s passing has gone to seed since Brighton took the lead. They can be such a moody team.
24 min “Hello Rob,” says Adam Roberts. “The pitch is playing quite strangely; there has been a number of instances of players slipping and, more than once, players leaving the ball behind as if it didn’t run smoothly – the latest example was Greenwood.”
I blame that bloody Rod Stewart concert.
23 min Veltman makes an important tackle to stop Greenwood running onto Pogba’s neat pass.
22 min Manchester United have been very good at coming from behind this season, though all of those fightbacks have been away from home. By my calculation they have goe behind three times at Old Trafford in the league, and lost all three. They did come from 1-0 down to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup though.
21 min “I’m glad you’re going with ‘Fernandes’ and not the increasingly common ‘Bruno’ in the MBM,” says Gary Naylor. “Some players seem to acquire this level of familiarity (‘Trent’) with fans as if they’re in their WhatsApp group and they’re going down the pub with them the moment they open. I suggest it’s acquired from pundits, who are, of course, on first name terms with some players and not with others.”
19 min Dunk almost makes it 2-0! Gross curled in a good free-kick from the left, and Dunk got in front of Wan-Bissaka to steer a header towards goal. It was close enough for Henderson to stretch and push it onto the top of the bar.
17 min After a slow start, Brighton are into their work now and have a bit of a strut on.
14 min Aaron Wan-Bissaka can be slightly dozy on crosses, and that was another example. He was the one marking Welbeck, who was able to lose him far too easily.
Pogba played a sloppy pass to Fred, who was partially obstructed by the referee Mike Dean. Trossard nicked the ball and moved it out to the right, where Maupay curled in a superb cross. Welbeck’s downward header was brilliantly saved by Henderson, but the ball bounced up perfectly for Welbeck to head into the net at the second attempt.
GOAL! Man Utd 0-1 Brighton (Welbeck 13)
Danny Welbeck scores against his old club!
12 min Gross’s very deep cross is headed back across the area by Welbeck. Trossard takes the ball on the run but is shepherded out of play by Lindelof and Maguire.
8 min: Greenwood hits the post! Fernandes’s cross from the left was headed away to the edge of the area by the backpedalling Dunk. Greenwood waited for the ball to bounce and cracked a right-footed shot that smacked off the outside of the post. It was a really clean hit, though I suspect Sanchez had it covered.
8 min Brighton are struggling to get out of their half at the moment. United look sharp, particularly Shaw and Rashford on the left.
7 min After a couple of minutes of treatment, Bissouma is able to continue.
5 min Bissouma is in a lot of pain after falling awkwardly. This doesn’t look great; it’s a problem with his left arm.
4 min United have strated brightly, which isn’t always the case. Bruno Fernandes has the first shot, swishing over the bar from 20 yards.
The players stroll out on a calm, dry evening in Manchester. Let’s play darts.
“Evening Rob,” says Geoff Wignall. “I suspect it was a very regional or even more local thing, but David Wall might be interested that in my underage drinking days (and later) a pint of wallop was a mild + bitter mix.”
Brown ale and mild? I’m pretty sure I’m getting a hangover just from reading that.
This is only the second time since the 2013-14 season that David de Gea has been on the bench for a Premier League game. The other instance was the match away to Sheffield United earlier this season.
“Hi Rob,” says David Wall. “A random thought from your earlier MBM on the Newcastle – Spurs game, what a lovely word ‘wallop’ is. The kind of thing Ted Hastings might work into a colloquial phrase or other.”
Martial could be out for the rest of the season
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has just said Anthony Martial may not play again this season because of a knee injury. As exasperating as he can be, that would still be a big blow to United’s hopes of winning the Europa League.
Team news: Henderson starts in goal
United’s injury list is not as bad as feared. Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani all start, as do Paul Pogba and Dean Henderson, who is preferred to David de Gea. There are two changes from United’s last league game, the scruffy 1-0 win over West Ham three weeks ago: Pogba and Cavani are in for Scott McTominay and Daniel James.
Graham Potter sticks with the Brighton side that hammered Newcastle before the international break.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani. Substitutes: de Gea, Williams, Tuanzebe, James, Matic, van de Beek, McTominay, Amad.
It’s second v sixteenth at Old Trafford. A home banker, right? Well not necessarily. This, for all kinds of reasons, is a really intriguing game. There’s Manchester United’s injury list and relatively modest home form; Brighton’s excellent recent performances and generally strong away form; the fact Brighton have never, ever, ever won at Old Trafford; and that bizarre game at the Amex Stadium in September, when Leandro Trossard hit the woodwork 49 times and Bruno Fernandes scored the winning goal after the final whistle had been blown.
While United are slightly in limbo – they are 17 points behind Manchester City and have an eight-point cushion from the teams outside the Champions League places – Brighton know exactly what time it is. For all their admirable football, they are still in a relegation battle and need all the points they can get. The league table says they have 32, which is 25 fewer than United. But if you’re into the whole xG thing, both teams should be on 49 points. That theoretical equality is another reason to think this match should be interesting enough to make us all forget the fact we’re missing bloody Line of Duty.