Manchester United may have to rely on two different players against Brighton

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After their FA Cup success on Saturday, Manchester United’s attention returns to the Premier League as they face Brighton and Hove Albion in an important match in the race for a place in the Champions League. As it stands, United is in sixth place, three points behind the Wolves and five behind Chelsea, although they have a game in hand over their Midland rivals.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know that his team will be in a difficult evening on the south coast, with Brighton still tasting the defeat since the resumption of the season.

These two teams met earlier in the season at Old Trafford, United losing 3-1 with goals by Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford proving decisive. Still, it’s a solid collective performance on the U.S. side that Solskjaer hopes his team can repeat in Tuesday’s game.

It is not known at this stage how Brighton manager Graham Potter will decide on his side given the fluidity with which he can be with his training. However, in the last meeting of the two teams, Potter placed Brighton in a 4-4-2 flat system, emphasizing his side by pressing United and trying to force the possession turnover at the top of the field .

Solskjaer aligned in his favorite 4-2-3-1 and was successful in Brighton’s tactics against them, the home team often being happy to invite the press before playing across the lines or shooting long balls over the top for United’s. fast players to run to.

We see a good example of United exhibiting Brighton in this way in the series of images below, taken from United’s victory at Old Trafford earlier in the season. Here, several Brighton midfielders and attackers have attempted to reduce the passing angles of United defenders and midfielders in possession.

However, Fred is able to take possession of Maguire’s ball and play a skillful pass to Pereira in front of him.



Despite Brighton’s press, Fred still managed to pass the ball to the United strikers

Pereira and Martial quickly connect on the halfway line before turning and rolling to the defense of Brighton. With so many Brighton midfielders, United’s attackers find themselves in a favorable 3v3 attack situation. This rapid passage from the game ultimately leads to the opening goal of the match.



United now finds itself in a favorable 3v3 attack

The ease with which United played at Brighton meant that Potter was forced to make a tactical change at half time, moving to a 3-4-1-2 formation.

It was a tactic that allowed Brighton to become a little more competitive in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, part of the game in which they managed to back off a goal. However, United were again able to find ways to exploit the configuration, by specifically attacking on the left.

An illustration of this is in the graph below, which shows the average position of each player during the second half. As we can see, Rashford (LAM) often drifted in more central areas behind the rear wing, while Martial (FW) occupied the space between Brighton’s central right rear and central central rear.



United's average positions against Brighton in the second half
United’s average positions against Brighton in the second half

This would create moments like the image below, where Brighton’s right central defender didn’t know whether to try to cut the Rashford switch over on his right shoulder or Martial on his left. This double jeopardy by United would often create uncertainty and delay in the defender’s decision-making.

From this pass, United scored their third goal as Martial set up Rashford who was shooting from under the bar.



Fred can switch to Rashford or Martial with Brighton defender who doesn't know who to score
Fred can switch to Rashford or Martial with Brighton defender who doesn’t know who to score

In more recent games against the best teams, Brighton has been seated more deeply, pressing less and approaching as a defense, limiting space for attackers and forcing teams to move away. This is evidenced by their average pass defense defense (PDDA) of 19.79 from their last game against Leicester City.

PPDA is indeed a tool to measure the aggressiveness of a team: the fewer passes allowed, the more aggressive the press. This average against Leicester is significantly higher than their average of 6.47 against United at Old Trafford in November.



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This recent trend to sit against the best sides could be a concern for United given the notorious fight against deeper teams at the start of the season. However, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and the availability of Paul Pogba make Solskjaer’s team much more equipped to break up stubborn teams.

Both are creative, technically gifted players who are great at finding small pockets of space between the lines, dribbling around defenders and passing accurate passes to attackers in the penalty area.

Therefore, even if Martial and Rashford were players whose pace and speed were so crucial to the win against the South Coast in November, we can probably expect a different game this time with more confidence in the players of technically gifted midfielder from United. such as Pogba and Fernandes to pull the strings inside in the advanced areas of the field and unlock what is sure to be a resilient and robust Brighton rear line.



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