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United press man predicting a home win

We talked to Simon Peach from the Press Association ahead of this weekend's game with Manchester United at Old Trafford, discussing the hosts' start to the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the side's summer business and Sunday's contest with the Seagulls.

By Alex Stedman • 07 November 2019

By REX/Shutterstock.
Albion head north to face Manchester United this weekend.

Graham Potter's men have won three of their last four league matches, beating Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Norwich City respectively at the Amex Stadium. It's a run of results which has seen Albion move up to eighth position ahead of Sunday's game with the Red Devils, and we got the view from the home press box ahead of the final contest before November's international break.

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Extended highlights: Albion 2 Norwich 0

What have you made of Manchester United's start to the season?

It has been bumpy, that's for sure. This was always likely to be a transitional season full of peaks and troughs, but even the powers that be at Manchester United may have been taken aback by the start of the campaign.

A summer of hard work and harmony was followed by a 4-0 opening-day defeat of Chelsea, yet that all quickly proved to be a false dawn. Pressure swiftly ratcheted up on players, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the structure at the club, with last month's 1-0 loss at Newcastle resulting in an international break of speculation and introspection. But there have been a few belated signs of life since then. 

AFC Bournemouth loss last weekend, but before that had won their last three (away) and drew with league leaders Liverpool - can that be considered as an upturn in form?

The loss at the Vitality Stadium was concerning but United should not let that throw them off kilter as things have improved since that chastening Newcastle defeat. United halted Liverpool’s 17-match winning run in the Premier League and should really have won as Solskjaer set his side up in a way that nullified Jurgen Klopp’s men and offered them attacking bite.

The three-man defence flanked by wing-backs again worked well as they ended an 11-match winless run on the road at Partizan Belgrade, which was followed up by a league win at Norwich and Carabao Cup triumph at Chelsea. If they can beat Partizan on home turf this Thursday, then United will go into the game with Brighton in good spirits. 

By REX/Shutterstock
Anthony Martial contests possession with Nathan Ake last Saturday.

How do they find consistency? How do they replicate form on the road recently more regularly?

The million dollar question – well, considerably more than that given the amount spent trying to answer that since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

The three-man backline certainly gives United’s flying full-backs and two-pronged strike force the chance to flourish. But that system will not always work and the lack of a creative midfielder - keenly felt in Paul Pogba's absence - is hampering United, especially when required to break down teams rather than break on them.

A word on the manager - fans will give him time because of his status at the club?

If you score the stoppage-time winner that secures the club an unprecedented treble, you tend to get a bit more time than most. Solskjaer has shown flashes of quality since taking over, just as he has been naive in some respects on and off the field.

It is strange to say that a United manager but is a work in progress, but there is a belief behind the scenes that he is the right man for the job. Seen as able to shoulder the pressure that comes with coaching the club, his understanding of the culture and philosophy required at Old Trafford is giving him time to stamp his authority.

By Paul Hazlewood
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the game with Albion at Old Trafford last season.

Young players like Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams and the importance of Scott McTominay - growing trend across the league of manager’s putting their trust in youth - promising signs from those Manchester United have fielded so far?

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward recently reiterated that United’s core three football objectives are winning trophies, playing attacking football and giving youth a chance. The latter has been a cornerstone of the club’s many successes over the years and will be key if the club are to kick on. And while a lot has rightly been said about Chelsea's youngsters shining, United's period of transition has offered young talent the opportunity to fill existing voids.

By REX/Shutterstock
Scott McTominay in action against AFC Bournemouth last weekend.

Mason Greenwood, who turned 18 at the start of the month, is a superb talent and can become a key player for years to come, while Scott McTominay has grown in both playing and leadership capacities. Brandon Williams has grasped the opportunity presented by Luke Shaw’s continued absence at left-back and performed admirably, while Angel Gomes, James Garner and Tahith Chong are pressing their case to breakthrough. Below that, there are other talents that Solskjaer is keeping his eye on. 

What were your thoughts on the club’s summer recruitment - Daniel James someone our head coach Graham Potter will be familiar with!

United ideally wanted to buy young, British talents as they undertook this latest rebuilding job. James not only fits that bill but was a no-brainer given the price he was available for. His directness and pace blew away onlookers during the pre-season tour of Australia and Asia, just as the winger's continued ascendancy has done since the start of the season.

James has already netted three goals and provided two more in the Premier League, with this already looking to be a fine piece of business by a club that has frittered away vast amounts of money in recent years. If anyone knows how to thwart him, though, you would think it would be the man that gave him the platform to shine at Swansea.

By REX/Shutterstock.
Daniel James on the attack for Manchester United.

Brighton are in good form - how do you see the game going this weekend?

I was impressed by the work Graham Potter did in Sweden at Ostersunds, then with Swansea at what was a challenging time for the club. I wondered if the move to Brighton may have been a little too soon, yet he not only has something about him but the ability to transfer his message to a different calibre of player.

I am expecting Albion to pose United some problems and Thursday’s Europa League exertions are sure to have some impact but given how desperate Solskjaer will be to go into the international break on a high it is hard to see beyond a home win on Sunday.

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