It has been a mixed week for United, that could do with ending on a high at Old Trafford against Brighton on Sunday. The week started with a flat 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth, where we never got going and barely threatened Ramsdale’s net. It brought the growing momentum that we seemed to be building in recent weeks to a rapid halt. It made the game against Partizan a crucial one in order to build confidence and return to winning ways again. It ended up being one of the best, if not the best, all-round performance from United this season. Martial, Rashford and Greenwood all scored which will be crucial in raising the confidence of our attackers in a side that have been severely lacking in goals all season.
The hope is that this confidence that was gained on Thursday night can be translated into a positive home league performance, something that has been in demand for a while. You have to feel Rashford and Martial in particular are different players all together when they are amongst the goals. I suppose, for such young players, this inconsistency should be expected. Moreover, I feel that it benefits the pair when they are both on the team-sheet at the same time. Rashford has had his best displays this time driving in from a wider, deeper position whilst Martial has shown quality in the outings he has been fit to start in his favoured number nine role. We also saw a glimpse in the Partizan game about how Martial and Rashford can have a relationship tactically in this shape. Martial at times was dropping very deep, allowing runners to go beyond him in behind. This will suit Rashford down to the ground, not needing to worry about getting his back to goal, but making runs in behind instead.
As far as I know, Rashford and Martial should be fit to start in the game on Sunday at Old Trafford. If Ole goes with his favoured 4-2-3-1 shape against the Seagulls, it could well be Rashford and James either side of Martial up front. Although that was deployed in our defeat at the Vitality, it should surely be seen as our best attacking trio taking everything into account. Dan James, although not being on the score sheet since his early flurry, has still displayed the dynamic energy and drive that is crucial to creating space for others and putting defenders on the backfoot. A lot of our chances for Sunday rests on these three to perform and show the ability to score goals, yes more than one shockingly, in the game on Sunday.
Brighton represent tough opponents at the moment. They have three wins from four, and the loss to Villa came with them being down a man. They have seemed to stumble across a very useful strike pairing in Aaron Connolly and summer signing Neal Maupay. Connolly impressed in their stunning 3-0 win vs Spurs, and has cemented a place in the squad since. It will be a challenge for our centre backs, more than likely to be Harry Maguire and the resurgent Marcos Rojo, to deal with an in form front two.
Although defensively we have been better this season, we still feel like we are prone to the mistake and we need to treat their attack with respect on Sunday. It is certainly a very different profile of striker to what we have seen from Brighton in their current stay in the Premier League, often relying on the experienced Glenn Murray to fire them to survival. Graham Potter has shown bravery to largely go away from that approach and that is likely a big reason why he was hired.
Predicting what kind of United will turn up on Sunday proves a more difficult task with every passing game. We look a resolute side who are capable of a magic moment or two, whilst largely being devoid of creativity, goals and the issue of being prone to a flat performance. A flat performance will not wash against this Brighton side. They are well coached by Potter. But one thing is for sure, if we see anything like the Partizan performance on Sunday, we may well be on to a winner.