Mark O'Haire: Seagulls can leave moody Mourinho feeling blue

8 min


Brighton v Manchester United

Manchester United vastly overperformed to finish as Manchester City’s nearest Premier League title challengers last term with Expected Goals suggested the Red Devils were only the sixth strongest side in the division.

Jose Mourinho’s men conceded 15 goals fewer than xG forecasted, while only six top-flight sides faced more shots from inside their own penalty box. It was, therefore, no surprise to see goalkeeper David de Gea scoop another Player of the Year award at Old Trafford in 2017/18.

Many were anticipating a summer spending spree from United but the Red Devils kicked-off their campaign without any major fanfare. Centre-back targets weren’t acquired and central midfielder Fred was the pick of a rather underwhelming bunch for Mourinho.

With players still working their way back to full fitness following the World Cup, the United boss was forced to field an unfamiliar back four in their opener against Leicester, and once more, Man Utd failed to convince despite eking out a 2-1 triumph at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils faced five more shots than the Foxes and were easily beaten on xG when excluding Paul Pogba’s early penalty. Mou’s men toiled in possession and rarely opened Leicester up, producing only 13 deep completions – the second-lowest tally in the Premier League last weekend.

Clearly, conditions on and off the field are far from ideal and I believe there’s reason to oppose United on Sunday afternoon when they head to The Amex.

Jose Mourinho has been in a familiar moody form already this season.

Brighton went down with little more than a whimper at Watford in their curtain-raiser, failing to land a single effort on-target and firing in only five attempts from inside the penalty box. It was a convincing defeat that left Chris Hughton perplexed in post-match interviews.

However, I’m not willing nor ready to write off the Seagulls.

Back on home soil, Albion are a different proposition, picking up 29 of their 40 point tally last term at The Amex, including holding United here in May.

Indeed, the Seasiders were beaten on only four occasions as hosts – by Man City, Leicester, Liverpool and Chelsea with all four employing incisive counter-attacking and fast-paced offenses to wreak havoc in transition – characteristics this United team are lacking under Mourinho’s watch.

The hosts conceded more than a solitary strike on just six occasions and the off-season additions of Yves Bisouma and Alireza Jahanbakhsh should add plenty to an already well-rounded and organised outfit. Marvin Montoya could come straight in at right-back and Florin And one is also nearing fitness.

I like Brighton’s business and I’m still confident they can comfortably stave off the threat of relegation this season. I also think conditions might be right for the Seagulls to spring an upset on United, and therefore are worth supporting with a +0.75 Asian Handicap start at 1.91.

Albion avoided defeat against Spurs, United and Arsenal in 2017/18, while the visitors dropped points in four of their 10 trips to the bottom half. The Red Devils often struggled to break down bottom-six teams on their travels and were beaten at Huddersfield and held by Stoke.

Leicester v Wolves

I’m a little surprised to see Over 2.5 Goals odds-against here and that gives us a great opportunity to back a high-scoring game with a touch of insurance.

Over 2.25 Goals is available to support at 1.84 and sees our stake split between Over 2 Goals and Over 2.5 Goals. So should exactly two goals be scored at the King Power, we’ll only lose half of our stake with the second half returned.

Leicester are a forward-thinking side, particularly on home soil, and the Foxes will welcome Jamie Vardy back to a starting position. New playmaker James Maddison is expected to shake off a knock and be involved after a promising debut at Old Trafford ensuring Claude Puel’s men pack plenty of punch.

Jamie Vardy impressed when introduced from the bench at Old Trafford last Friday.

Leicester saw 24 of their 38 games last season collect for Both Teams To Score backers and since their title triumph, 87% of home fixtures have featured at least two goals with 53% of outings producing profit for this selection.

Wolves were held by 10-man Everton 2-2 on their Premier League and managed only three shots from inside the penalty area. Nevertheless, Ruben Neves’ invention and inspiration carried Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, that featured four new additions.

The visitors scored in all bar eight games last season – two came when the Championship title was already wrapped up – and so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Wanderers grab a goal here.

Indeed, all three relegated sides got on the scoresheet at the KP last season and so an entertaining encounter could ensue.

Recommended Bets

  • Brighton +0.75 Asian Handicap (1.91)
  • Leicester v Wolves – Over 2.25 Goals (1.84)

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