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Sport

After false start, Man Utd seek lift-off at Brighton

(This Sept 24 story refiles to re-format headline. No change to text)

Soccer Football - Europa League Semi Final - Sevilla v Manchester United - RheinEnergieSTADION, Cologne, Germany - August 16, 2020 Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Anthony Martial after the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Martin Meissner/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United are already off the pace in the Premier League so Saturday’s trip to Brighton & Hove Albion offers a chance for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to get their challenge up to speed.

United began their season a week late after being given extra time to recover from their exertions in the Europa League, then suffered a 3-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace that poured cold water over any pre-season optimism.

That performance attracted widespread criticism and shone the spotlight firmly on United’s lack of business in the transfer window, although their one new signing Donny van de Beek did score on his debut at Palace.

Lacking creativity in midfield and clumsy in central defence, United looked way off a side capable of closing the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City, although victory at Brighton would at least quieten the chorus of disapproval.

“They need a centre back, and probably further recruitment also to be competitive,” former striker Dimitar Berbatov said. “At the end of the day, if Crystal Palace can score three past you, you are in trouble.

“If they don’t strengthen, it will be a long season for them.”

United did beat Luton Town 3-0 away in the League Cup this week, although the scoreline was given a flattering look by late goals from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

But Brighton, who won impressively 3-0 at Newcastle United last weekend, will be a far tougher proposition.

After an unfortunate 3-1 defeat by Chelsea on the opening day Brighton have scored nine goals without reply in three games in all competitions and will relish United’s visit.

While United seek their first league points, Crystal Palace and Everton, two of the early pace-setters, clash at Selhurst Park looking to make it three wins from three.

Two teams who struggled to score goals last season have been rejuvenated in attack with Palace bringing in Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea and exciting winger Eberechi Eze.

Everton’s young striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored four goals in two league games while James Rodriguez opened his account in a 5-2 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Arsenal’s encouraging start to the new campaign will be put to the test on Monday at Liverpool when both sides will be protecting 100% records as will Leicester City when they host Manchester City on Sunday.

Several clubs are still to get off the mark, one of whom, Sheffield United, host a goal-hungry Leeds United in a Yorkshire derby on Sunday. Sheffield are yet to score while Leeds have banged in seven goals, and conceded seven, in two games.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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