Weblog: The football punter

Brighton should make it awkward for United

FA Cup quarter-finals
BT Sport 1, 7.45pm Saturday

Manchester United went out of the Champions League in hugely disappointing fashion and they run the risk of another major setback if they play in a conservative fashion against Brighton in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Only success in the FA Cup and a top-four finish can salvage the season for United but their game against Brighton comes at an awkward time, just four days after United's most crushing defeat of the campaign.

Jose Mourinho's cautious tactics were to blame as United paid the price for being much too passive over two legs against Sevilla.

The Red Devils went for broke in the last 15 minutes but lacked intensity and creativity for the majority of the tie and did not have enough time to respond after Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder had broken the deadlock.

Mourinho has spent a fortune on reinforcing United's attack but the balance doesn't look quite right and Marcus Rashford, one of their most exciting players, is being held back.

Rashford was the hero of last Saturday's 2-1 success against Liverpool, scoring both of United's goals.

But he was switched from his favoured left-sided position to the right on Tuesday to accommodate Alexis Sanchez and was unable to perform to anywhere near the standard he reached three days before.

To make matters worse Sanchez failed to deliver and the Chilean is coming under pressure after a slow start to his Old Trafford career.

Sanchez has netted only once in ten appearances since moving from Arsenal and looks a shadow of the player who scored 24 league goals for the Gunners last season.

It may take a while for Mourinho to sort out the mess and there has been talk of a busy summer as the Portuguese seeks to address the team's problems.

But he and his players need to focus on more immediate targets because Brighton are are a well-drilled side, who have been preparing for this game all week.

They have struggled in tough away games this season, failing to score in any of four fixtures at the big six, but came close to a point when losing 1-0 at Old Trafford in November.

Mourinho admitted after the game that Brighton deserved "more than the result they got" and will be urging his players not to take the Seagulls' challenge lightly.

Brighton could be weakened in midfield if key man Dale Stephens fails to shake off the knock which ruled him out of last Saturday's 2-0 loss at Everton.

But they are strong at the back with accomplished central defenders Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy leading the resistance and are decent value to take the tie into extra-time.


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