Ralf Rangnick wants Manchester United to “have fun” at Brighton and Hove Albion, believing it benefited their display against Brentford.
In their final home game of a dismal season, United beat Brentford 3-0 last time out, finally matching the result with a performance.
It ultimately meant little, with United seemingly certain to finish sixth in the Premier League, but interim manager Rangnick wants them to maintain that standard through the final weeks of his tenure.
“In the last two home games, we got four points,” he said. “And the Brentford game was one of our best games in the last six months.
“I’m positive that the team will try to play on the same level tomorrow and in two weeks’ time against Crystal Palace.
“Once again, what I liked about the game was you could see they had fun playing together, that they were enjoying themselves on the pitch, and this is exactly the kind of approach we need for tomorrow as well.
“I think it was visible against Brentford, you could see they enjoyed themselves on the pitch. This does not mean everything was perfect, but in possession we were controlling the game.”
And despite United’s poor campaign, this remains a big game for hosts Brighton.
“They played well against Brentford in the last game, they’ve got some fantastic players,” Graham Potter said, “and it’s Manchester United coming to town, so it’s an exciting game for us.
“We have to make sure we’re good, focus on the things that we do well, and do our best.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brighton and Hove Albion – Danny Welbeck
This will be one of the fixtures United academy graduate Welbeck circles at the start of every year. He has scored three goals in eight league games against his former club, making him the highest-scoring player against United in Premier League history among those to have previously played for the Old Trafford outfit.
Manchester United – Juan Mata
The week leading up to this match has been dominated by discussion of Jesse Lingard’s imminent departure, but Mata – who did get an Old Trafford send-off – is also leaving and excelled in his favored number 10 position against Brentford. That was the veteran’s first league start of the season, and he deserves a second.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Having won two of their first three Premier League games against Manchester United, Brighton have lost each of their past six against the Red Devils.
– Manchester United have won each of their past seven meetings with Brighton in all competitions, their longest ongoing winning run against another current Premier League side.
– Brighton have won three of their past five Premier League games (D1 L1), as many as they had in their previous 25 (D13 L9). However, each of their past five victories have come away from home, with only five clubs having a run of six wins without any coming at home (most recently Liverpool last season).
– Manchester United have lost each of their past four Premier League away games, as many as they had in their previous 42 on the road. It is their longest run of consecutive away league defeats since a run of six between December 1980 and March 1981.
– Brighton have failed to win any of their past eight Premier League home games (D4 L4) since a 2-0 victory over Brentford on Boxing Day. Only once in the competition have they had a longer such run, going 14 games between June 2020 and January 2021.