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Your essential match preview: United v Brighton

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Manchester United will welcome Brighton & Hove Albion to Old Trafford for an important Emirates FA Cup sixth-round tie on Saturday evening. Here's everything you need to know...

Setting the scene… After the disappointment of being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the last-16 stage in midweek, the Reds will be looking to bounce back immediately against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie this weekend. Prior to the 2-1 defeat against Sevilla on Tuesday night, Jose Mourinho’s men had recorded three straight victories and will hope to return to winning ways in the third match in a sequence of four consecutive home games. There’s plenty at stake, with the FA Cup now representing United’s only realistic chance of silverware this season. A place in the semi-finals at Wembley is up for grabs and there must be a winner on the night.

How can I follow it? Saturday’s game kicks off at 19:45 GMT and will be broadcast live on BT Sport in the UK. MUTV subscribers will be able to watch build-up from 17:45 GMT on the Match Day show and listen to radio commentary of the game before watching it in full from midnight. You can also follow the action as it happens via ManUtd.com’s live match blog and @ManUtd on Twitter.

What’s the team news? As he has done for the previous rounds in the competition, Mourinho is likely to field a strong side. French duo Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial returned from injury as substitutes against Sevilla and could be pushing for starts, while Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have missed recent matches. The boss could give an update on the squad in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

Meanwhile, Brighton are set to be without influential French forward Anthony Knockaert through suspension, following his red card late on in their 2-0 defeat at Everton last weekend. Injured trio Steve Sidwell (back), Isaiah Brown (knee) and Jiri Skalak (ankle) are expected to be sidelined again.

'We all have to bounce back' article

Romelu Lukaku states United must now focus on the Emirates FA Cup, after the painful Champions League exit.

Why are we playing on Saturday night? The match has been selected by broadcasters for the primetime evening slot, seemingly as another trial ahead of its introduction in the Premier League in the 2019/20 season. It’s the second time that the Reds will play on Saturday night this term, after the 2-2 draw at Leicester in the league just before Christmas.

How have both sides reached this stage? United are yet to concede a goal in the FA Cup this season and have progressed to the quarter-finals for a fourth successive year. The Reds beat Championship side Derby County 2-0 at home in round three, eased past League Two outfit Yeovil Town 4-0 at Huish Park and saw off Huddersfield Town 2-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium in the fifth round last month. Meanwhile, Brighton have reached the last eight of the competition for the first time since 1986 after a 3-1 home win over League Two side Coventry City in the last round. Prior to that, the Seagulls beat fierce rivals Crystal Palace 2-1 in round three and won 1-0 at Championship side Middlesbrough in the fourth round.

What’s our FA Cup record like? The Reds are looking to advance to the last four of the competition for only the fourth time in the last 12 seasons and will be wary of the fact we have gone out at the quarter-final stage in two of the last three years, including a 1-0 defeat at Mourinho’s former club Chelsea last term. But, after lifting the famous trophy at Wembley in 2016, United will be hopeful of replicating that success this term and could go level with Arsenal as the joint most-successful team in FA Cup history with 13 triumphs, after the holders were knocked out by Championship side Nottingham Forest in round three.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring against Huddersfield in the FA Cup.
Lukaku has scored in every round of the competition so far, including a brace in the last round at Huddersfield

How have Brighton been doing? Chris Hughton’s side are enjoying a magnificent first season in the Premier League, riding high in 11th place in the table. With a six-point cushion on the bottom three with eight league games left to play, the Seagulls are tantalisingly close to securing safety, which would be a fantastic achievement for the south-coast club. Prior to last weekend’s reverse at Goodison Park, they had embarked on an impressive seven-match unbeaten run which included a 2-1 win over Arsenal and a 4-1 victory against an in-form Swansea City, who are United’s next league opponents on 30 March after the international break.

Have we played Brighton already this season? Yes, the Reds have already welcomed the Seagulls to Old Trafford, in the league back in November. Ashley Young’s strike midway through the second half deflected in off Brighton defender Lewis Dunk for an own goal which gave United a slender 1-0 victory. It was a hard-fought game, with Mourinho even suggesting at the time that Brighton had provided the Reds’ toughest test on home soil this season. United are also set to travel to the Amex Stadium for the reverse Premier League fixture in the first weekend of May.

United 1 Brighton 0Video

What’s our record like against them? United have a very impressive record against Brighton, having claimed 11 wins and five draws from the 17 clashes between the sides in all competitions. The sole defeat came in a Division One match at Brighton's old Goldstone Ground in 1982, when a Peter Ward strike was enough to hand the hosts a 1-0 win. However, the Reds are unbeaten in six matches since then and this last-eight tie is a repeat of the 1983 FA Cup final, which we won 4-0 in a replay following an initial 2-2 draw at Wembley.  

One to watch: After netting 23 times to help Brighton achieve automatic promotion from the Championship last term, Glenn Murray is the club’s leading scorer again with 13 goals so far this term, chipping in with several important strikes this season. His impressive form has also led to talk of an England call-up and the Reds defence will have to keep a close eye on the prolific frontman.

VAR is back… That’s right! The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be employed for the first time at Old Trafford in Saturday’s game. It certainly caused controversy when used for the first time in a United game in the previous round at Huddersfield after Juan Mata had a goal contentiously ruled out for offside. But both Mata and Mourinho told MUTV they are in favour of the new technology – which is currently on trial in selected games in English cup competitions and will be used in three of the four FA Cup quarter-final ties.

Juan Mata in discussion with referee Kevin Friend after his disallowed goal at Huddersfield.
Mata in discussion with referee Kevin Friend after his disallowed goal at Huddersfield in the last round

Who’s the referee? Andre Marriner, who made history by officiating the first game to use VAR in England involving Brighton against Crystal Palace in the third round, will oversee his fifth United game of the season this weekend. The West Midlands whistler will be assisted by Richard West, Scott Ledger and fourth official Bobby Madley. Mike Jones is the VAR and will be aided by Andy Halliday.

Rivals Watch… There is a truncated Premier League programme consisting of just four games as all four FA Cup quarter-finals take place this weekend. Here’s the full fixture list…

Saturday 17 March
Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur (12:15 GMT)
Manchester United v Brighton (19:45 GMT)

Sunday 18 March
Wigan Athletic v Southampton (13:30 GMT)
Leicester City v Chelsea (16:30 GMT)

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