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Brighton and Hove Albion

Three talking points as Manchester United earnt a narrow victory over Brighton & Hove Albion

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Manchester United

Manchester United ensured that they kept on the heels of rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table after a huge slice of luck earnt them three points against Brighton on Saturday.

Losses against Huddersfield Town and Chelsea in recent weeks had seen Jose Mourinho’s side lose ground on their neighbours and they could ill-afford another slip-up against a spirited Seagulls side.

They came close to breaking the deadlock in the first-half when Brighton ‘keeper Mathew Ryan denied Romelu Lukaku with a smart double save, but clear opportunities were limited for the hosts.

The opener – and eventual winner – came in hugely fortunate circumstances, with Ashley Young’s effort from 25-yards taking a wicked deflection off of Lewis Dunk and nestling into the top corner.

Brighton pressed for an equaliser late in the game but United held on for a vital three points, and Mourinho’s side remain eight points adrift after Pep Guardiola’s side beat Huddersfield on Sunday.

Lukaku’s two moments of controversy

After starting his Manchester United career in impressive fashion with seven goals in his first eight Premier League appearances, the goals have dried up and frustration has grown for Romelu Lukaku.

Since scoring in the 4-0 win over Crystal Palace the £75million summer signing has found the net once in six league games, and his starting role could be under increasing scrutiny with Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who scored 17 goals last campaign – returning from his injury quicker than expected.

And despite failing to score during Saturday’s win over Brighton he was still involved in a telling moment of controversy, with the linesman awarding a Manchester United corner after his challenge was adjudged to have touched the ball onto Solly March – a corner that led to United’s winning goal.

Yet it has transpired since the match that Lukaku was at the centre of further controversy at Old Trafford, with a potential three-match ban said to be in the pipeline after allegedly kicking out at Gaetan Bong.

Sources close to ESPN claimed that the Belgian international aimed two kicks at the Brighton defender – catching him with the second – although it seems that Lukaku will escape without sanction following the incident after the Football Association decided against taking any further action.

Brighton come close to famous point

It may have been their first league visit to Old Trafford since 1983 but Brighton certainly weren’t overawed by the occasion, and they showed that they’ve adapted to playing in the Premier League.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho summed it up best himself with his post-match thoughts, saying how the Seagulls ‘deserved more than the result they got’, and on the balance of play throughout the 90 minutes it is hard to disagree as Brighton more than matched their opponents.

They were defensively excellent, limiting the hosts to just a handful of clear chances as their organisation and discipline proved hard to break down, but they possessed attacking threat too.

Anthony Knockaert looked dangerous whenever on the ball down the right-hand side, and fellow attacker Pascal Gross was unlucky not to see one of his balls across the face find a definitive touch.

In the end it was nothing more than a devilish slice of luck that proved the difference on the day, and Brighton can take a number of positives into their next match against rivals Crystal Palace this week.

Lindelof enjoys best game in a United shirt

It’s been anything but easy for Victor Lindelof since making the switch from Benfica during the summer transfer window but Saturday’s display against Brighton should fill him with confidence.

His well-documented mistakes against Huddersfield Town – one which cost United points – and Newcastle United haven’t exactly endeared him much to the Manchester United fans, but performing like he did on Saturday could signal the start of a turnaround in his Old Trafford career.

In the absence of both first-choice centre-backs Phil Jones and Eric Bailly he deputised admirably, looking composed on the ball and assured with his positioning, and there was one particular crunching sliding tackle on Knockaert that wouldn’t have looked out of place if it had come from Nemanja Vidic.

There are moments in every player’s career that can be deemed as turning points, and in Lindelof’s case this could well be it – with just one determined challenge he managed to get a rapturous response from the Old Trafford faithful, and after that his display merely went from strength to strength.

Mourinho has shown a lot of faith in the young Swedish international and it could be that it’s starting to pay dividends now, and it’s up to Lindelof to kick on from this and forget past misdemeanors.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Rodrigo reported as Brighton target, but he is surely too expensive?

The Valencia striker is reportedly wanted by a trio of Premier League clubs.

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Photo: Getty Images

Brighton, along with Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have been linked with a move for Valencia forward Rodrigo this summer.

Calciomercato claims that all three clubs are interested in signing the Spanish international come the summer. The report discloses his massive €120 million (£105.4 million) release clause, but that offers in the region of €40 million (£35 million) are expected.

Which is surely when the links to Brighton have to stop.

Rodrigo, who had a spell at Bolton Wanderers as a young player on loan from Benfica, would be a tremendous signing for Brighton.

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old has scored 16 goals in 35 games for Los Che this season. Such form could see him earn a place in Spain’s squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

Brighton, however, simply cannot afford such a massive sum of money on one player, especially considering the club recently broke their record to sign Dutch striker Jurgen Locadia.

According to the Guardian, that fee was around £14 million. Paying more than double that on Rodrigo is simply inconceivable.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It would immediately undermine the money they spent on Locadia, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven and leave very little in the kitty to improve other areas of the team this summer.

Rodrigo would undoubtedly be a dream signing for Brighton. The Seagulls look increasingly safe in the Premier League and bringing in a top name this summer would be a popular move among fans at the Amex Arena.

But simply put, £35 million is just not a figure Brighton can or should pay for just one player. Instead, such money should be spread out throughout the team evenly. Distributing the funds in this way will allow Brighton to fully strengthen their side and maintain the balance that has taken them to a brilliant first Premier League campaign.

There might come a day when Brighton can afford to splurge £35 million on just one player. That day, however, will not be in 2018.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Is Brighton’s Christian Walton a future England star?

The 22-year-old stopper has been in fine form at Wigan Athletic.

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Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup run has come to an end. The Latics lost 2-0 against Southampton at the DW Stadium, despite being the better team in the first-half. However, Southampton came alive in the second period and goals from Pierre Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares settled the tie.

It could have been more, were it not for a brilliant penalty save from Wigan goalkeeper Christian Walton. He dived to his left and got a strong palm to a driven effort from 12 yards by Manolo Gabbiadini. Unbelievably, Walton managed to get enough on the ball to turn it around the post and keep Wigan in the tie.

It was a brilliant save in what was another excellent performance from the young stopper. So do Brighton and Hove Albion have a future star on their hands?

Walton is on loan at Wigan from Brighton until the end of the season. It is the fifth loan spell of Walton’s career after similar spells at Bury, Plymouth Argyle, Luton Town and Southend United.

The 22-year-old’s brilliant performance v Southampton was no anomaly. He was in fine form in Wigan’s recent famous win against Manchester City.

Brighton clearly know they have a top talent on their hands, yet Chris Hughton has not yet pulled the trigger on the player.

In the summer, when Brighton lost number one David Stockdale to Birmingham City, Hughton signed two new keepers. Australian international Mat Ryan arrived from Valencia whilst Tim Krul was a free transfer from Newcastle United.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

But Brighton did secure Walton to a new deal, keeping him at the Amex Arena until 2021. With Krul’s deal ending at the end of the season, perhaps Walton will be in line to be the Seagulls second-choice keeper from next season.

England currently have something of a concern regarding the goalkeeper position but the future is bright. Sam Johnstone, Freddie Woodman and Angus Gunn look like top talents and Walton must be included in the same company.

Not only an excellent shot-stopper, but Walton is confident coming off his line and good with the ball at his feet.

The competition is certainly fierce, with the likes of Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope also potential future England goalkeepers.

But Walton might just be in with a shout of such accolades in the future as well if he can find his way at Brighton.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Manager of the Month: Can Chris Hughton now play out a dream season with Brighton?

The Brighton boss was recently crowned February Manager of the Month.

Jake Jackman

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Chris Hughton
Photo: Getty Images

Chris Hughton has not received a huge amount of exposure for the job that he is doing with Brighton, but back-to-back Premier League wins have seen the Seagulls rise to 10th position in the table and he has subsequently been rewarded with the February Manager of the Month award.

As a newly-promoted team, they will have targeted survival. Although it remains tight at the bottom, it would take a considerable drop-off for the South Coast team to suffer relegation, especially following an unbeaten run throughout the last month.

But Hughton won’t be getting too far ahead of himself. After all, his team squandered a seven-point lead with three games to go in the Championship last season.

That said, he has done a tremendous job at the Amex Stadium and gone a long way to proving those that doubted him wrong. Hughton is seen as one of the nicest men in football and a safe pair of hands, but he hasn’t always convinced as a Premier League manager.

His first spell in charge of a top-flight club was at Newcastle United. Hughton led them back to the Premier League at the first attempt and the team were in 11th position when he was dismissed. It was considered harsh at the time and even Magpies owner Mike Ashley has admitted since that it was a mistake in an interview with Sky Sports:

“I thought I was very unfair to Chris Hughton, who got us promoted, I don’t think I gave him enough time.”

Hughton was well liked by both the players and supporters at Newcastle. He pulled the club together after the disaster of relegation and managed to win the Championship with ease. Considering it was his first job in management, he was thrown straight into a difficult job and coped well with it. The sacking has unfairly put a black mark on his record and he has been trying to erase it ever since.

The next Premier League he was given was at Norwich City and he fared okay with the Canaries. During his first season, he led them to 11th position. Considering their relative stature in the game, that is a great achievement. However, the style of play was bland and supporters were quick to turn on him in the following season.

The club sacked him with five matches to go in the 2013/14 campaign with the club lying five points above the relegation zone. It was a strange decision, especially as Neil Adams was chosen to take over with no experience of top-flight management. Norwich were relegated that season. They may have faced the same fate had they kept faith in Hughton, but they would have had a better chance of survival.

How he has enhanced his reputation at Brighton

Despite doing a decent job with Norwich before dismissal, Hughton had to drop a division to take his next job and it was with Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls were in 21st position at the time after the poor tenure of Sami Hyypia, but the potential was obvious.

The facilities were great and the new stadium was built with Premier League football as the target. The club had challenged at the top for a number of years previous and had become regulars in the play-offs, but they couldn’t get over the line.

Hughton had won promotion with Newcastle and came close with Birmingham. It was a perfect match as he needed to repair his reputation out of the spotlight. It wasn’t instant success as he fought relegation for the rest of the season and stayed up by only six points. However, he did enough to win favour with the board and he hasn’t looked back since.

During his second season, the club challenged for promotion and missed out only on goal difference by two goals. It was heartbreak on the final day as they needed a win against rivals Middlesbrough, but came up short. They couldn’t get themselves back up for the play-offs and were knocked out by Sheffield Wednesday.

It seemed like both Hughton and Brighton had missed their opportunity of promotion, but they regrouped and earned it the following season in convincing fashion. They may have collapsed late to lose out on the title, but they had won promotion by April and it was never really in doubt.

That was an excellent achievement, but there remained doubts about Hughton’s ability to establish Brighton in the Premier League.

The summer saw him make shrewd additions with Pascal Gross, Mathew Ryan, Davy Propper, Ezequiel Schelotto and Jose Izquierdo coming in to strengthen the first-team. It took some of them time to settle, but they are all now starters. As a newly-promoted club, it is important to add quality to the squad if you are to survive.

Despite being a newly-promoted club, Brighton haven’t really been in much danger of relegation this season. They haven’t been in the relegation zone since the second week of the season. The bottom-half of the table has been tight, but the Seagulls have always had a buffer to the relegation zone. They have taken points from 18 of their 19 matches and their recent match display against Arsenal was the highlight of their season to date.

In the first-half, they attacked with vigour and caused Arsenal a lot of problems. They went 2-0 up and could have scored more on another day.

Although the Gunners got a goal back, the result never looked in serious danger and the home side managed the game well. It was a performance fitting of a Premier League team and the aim now will be to establish themselves at this level over the course of several years.

It is a challenge that Hughton will be relishing. In a period of few British coaches at the highest level, the Brighton manager is proving that he is one of the best and he could start to be linked with bigger jobs if he continues to impress.

The Seagulls remain in the FA Cup and have reached the quarter-final stage for the first time since 1986. Hughton is establishing himself as one of the best managers in the club’s history and although they face a difficult match against Manchester United to reach Wembley, they have the ability to get to the next round.

There is a long way to go in this season, but Brighton could feasibly finish in the top half of the Premier League and win the FA Cup. That would be a season beyond the wildest dreams of many supporters. It remains a long shot, but to be in with a chance is a great achievement by Hughton.

If his side can finish the season strongly, he has to be in contention to win Manager of the Year award.

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