Manchester United vs Brighton and Hove Albion: Three players who must start

by Leo Nieboer

Manchester United supporters will expect a ruthless response from their side against Brighton and Hove Albion following Wednesday’s capitulation in Switzerland.

Jose Mourinho’s men, following a galvanising 4-1 win over Newcastle United last weekend, took control of proceedings against FC Basel in the first half.

But they grew complacent as the game went on, gave away too many fouls, and ultimately conceded a late winner that highlighted their lack of organisation at the back.

Here are three players Mourinho must restore to the starting XI in order to put Man United back on the right track ahead of a crucial December period.

Nemanja Matic

The Serbian’s presence in midfield at home this season has given United an element of control in games that they didn’t have last term. His reading of the game, combined with an imposing frame and nimble footwork, ensures any opposition midfield faces an uphill struggle – especially with Paul Pogba alongside him.

He may only be a few months into his United career, but Matic already feels like an indispensable presence at Old Trafford.

Antonio Valencia

United’s full-backs – Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind – were too slow, too ill-discipled, and ultimately not good enough in Basel on Wednesday. Their lack of forward impetus invited pressure and it was no surprise to see the visitors eventually unlocked out wide as injury time approached.

With that in mind, Mourinho will be delighted to welcome back Valencia on the right hand side. United’s wide threat comes primarily from the Ecuadorian’s cut and thrust at full-back, and his raw energy could prove vital in unlocking Brighton’s back four.

Juan Mata

Chris Hughton’s side will naturally look to sit back and form a compact defensive frontier, hitting United on the break when they can.

Needless to say, Mata’s precision and subtle craftiness – a capacity to probe away at the opposition without actually being particularly noticeable on the pitch – will come in handy against Brighton.

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