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PRESS PREVIEW: MANCHESTER UNITED

4 May 2018

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Manchester United are Albion's final home opponents of the Premier League campaign.

Simon Peach of the Press Association runs the rule over tonight's visitors to the Amex Stadium.

United are a side who pride themselves on silverware – how important is winning the FA Cup for the future of Jose Mourinho? 

I am not sure FA Cup glory will have any say on Mourinho’s future, but I am certain he will be desperate to win it. He, as you suggest, is synonymous with success and silverware, enjoying it wherever he has been.

Last season he became the first manager in United’s history to win a major trophy in his first campaign. Europa League glory complemented EFL Cup and Community Shield success, while ending a third straight season with a cup builds momentum and nods at a brighter future. 

What did the loss to West Brom tell you about the side?

I could give you clichés aplenty, but it just underlined that being technically superior is not always enough.

Nobody heading to Old Trafford that Sunday imagined it would go beleaguered West Brom’s way but United were meek and the visitors took their chances. Mourinho was naturally furious afterwards but wins over Bournemouth and Arsenal either side of the FA Cup semi-final victory against Tottenham have helped everyone move on.

They’ve been deemed unspectacular - but will finish second in the league and have reached a cup final – crisis?

Fans of most clubs would love such a ‘crisis’ season! It is true that United have not warmed the cockles at times, but there is always a moment in a game that gets you off your seat. For me, United still struggle for coherence and too often perform like a group of individuals rather than a team.

But given the quality at their disposal, particularly in attacking areas, when they click it could be spectacular. Some United fans may well want more attractive play, but their side is on course for their highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and another trophy. Not too bad. 

Where and who do they need to recruit this summer to challenge for the title next season?

United do not feel far off in terms of quality. Antonio Valencia could do with a high-class challenger at right-back, while left-back looks like an issue that needs solving with an eye on the long-term given Ashley Young, as impressive as he been, is soon 33 and talented Luke Shaw appears persona non grata.

Michael Carrick’s retirement only heightens the need for a creative midfield force, while other departures may dictate further changes in personnel. Mourinho has said he would not sign players for his attack after bringing Alexis Sanchez in.

Brighton have run United close both times at Old Trafford – and United have lost to both Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town – more than realistic for the home side to upset the odds?

United have shown that when they are not quite at it mentally that they can be got at. Newcastle and Huddersfield outfought rather than outplayed them earlier in the season, as did West Brom at Old Trafford a few weeks back.

The difference now, it feels, is that the end is in sight, with second spot tantalisingly close and an FA Cup final to prove yourself for – as well as a World Cup for many. But Brighton have shown they have what it takes to frustrate United and Premier League safety being so close should add an extra edge.


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