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Brighton & Hove Albion-Manchester United Preview
Jose Mourinho's Manchester United are stuck in the shadow of neighbours Manchester City.
United (8-2-2) go into Saturday's game against Brighton and Hove Albion a full eight points behind the Premier League leaders.
And it's not just in terms of league position that City have been lording it over their rivals. A tally of 40 goals scored far exceeds any other Premier League team, while even this week the Citizens outdid their city counterparts, winning in Europe against Feyenoord as United lost away to Basel.
Such comparisons between the two biggest spending clubs in English football do not go down well with United manager Mourinho, particularly when critics have attacked his team's occasionally defensive style of play this season.
But there is plenty of support for Mourinho from within his own squad, not least from midfielder and staunch ally Ander Herrera.
"If you look at Manchester United's statistics, until three weeks ago, we had scored the same number of goals as Manchester City had and we were the second-highest goal-scoring team in the league," Herrera said. "Many times the tags in football are needed from a journalistic standpoint but they don't reflect the truth, like in Mourinho's case.
"Last year, we won three titles having the majority of possession in most of the games and creating more (goal-scoring) chances than our opponents," Herrera continued, generously adding the preseason Community Shield to United's list of major honours. "It's impossible to win three titles in a given season being defensive, it's just impossible."
Saturday's game against Brighton will give United a chance to temporarily close the gap at the top of the table, with City not playing until late on Sunday afternoon.
But the in-form Seagulls will be no pushovers. Chris Hughton's side (4-4-4) are unbeaten in five in the Premier League and are relishing a first ever top-flight trip to one of the most vaunted stadiums in the world.
"It's one of the ones you look forward to when the fixtures come out at the start of the season because every player wants to play in big stadiums like Old Trafford," midfielder Solly March told Brighton's official website this week.
"Not many of us have played there so that's good for us and it's a real chance for both myself and the boys to test themselves against the best."
Brighton's only injury absentee is veteran midfielder Steve Sidwell, while United have doubts over the fitness of Eric Bailly and Michael Carrick. Phil Jones remains out.
However, in a positive piece of injury news for United, centre-back Marcos Rojo made a much-awaited return from injury in the Champions League on Wednesday.
"Rojo played very well," Mourinho said of his returning defender. "He could be playing a couple of weeks ago. We didn't need to rush him. The first half was very easy, he had lot of the ball, he didn't have to be physically demanding. He controlled very well his game, so I'm really happy."
This will be the first Premier League meeting between these clubs and the first in any competition since January 1993.
Updated November 23, 2017