Brighton boss Graham Potter has backed Manchester United to bounce back from their shock defeat to Crystal Palace and become “a force for the Premier League”.
Albion are preparing to host Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side twice in five days in the league and Carabao Cup.
United were the last top-flight club to finish the prolonged 2019-20 campaign due to their run to the Europa League semi-finals and suffered an unexpected 3-1 home loss to Palace on their return from a scant pre-season.
Potter feels Solskjaer’s men were among Albion’s toughest opponents last term and arguably the best team post-lockdown.
He is wary of United’s “sensational” attacking talent and will hope to fare better than in late June when Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes ran riot in a comprehensive 3-0 away success at the Amex Stadium.
Asked if he believes the 20-time English champions have the potential to recreate former glories this season, Potter replied: “Yeah, I do, because at the back end of lockdown they were as good as anybody.
“The front four – Martial, Rashford, Greenwood and Fernandes – were, I thought, sensational.
“They’ve got some wonderful players and I think they will get stronger and stronger as the season goes on and they will be a force for the Premier League.
“Obviously they finished their season later with Europa League games and they are probably not at the same level that they were at in terms of against Crystal Palace. But sometimes that’s a bit of a process to get to that point.
“I’m sure they will get better and better as the time goes on because their summer has been a bit disrupted, more so than maybe other teams, especially us.
“But they are still strong, they are going to be a top team with top players and we know we’re in for a heck of game.”
United travel to the south coast for a lunchtime kick-off on Saturday before returning on Wednesday evening for a last-16 tie.
After beginning the campaign with a home loss to Chelsea, Brighton have found form, scoring nine times without reply to overcome Portsmouth, Newcastle and Preston in two competitions.
Potter, who has been completely changing his team for the cup, has urged his players to relish the prospect of facing United twice in quick succession.
“We know the challenge, we know that they’re a top team,” he said.
“But you want to test yourself against the best ones.
“And that’s what it provides us, a great test, a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to try to get some positive results.”
Potter faces a dilemma in central midfield as Yves Bissouma is banned following his red card at St James’ Park, while Dale Stephens was on Thursday allowed to join divisional rivals Burnley.
With Davy Propper and Adam Lallana struggling for fitness in recent weeks, there have been suggestions 21-year-old Jayson Molumby could be handed a top-flight debut against United.
Potter played down those rumours but is excited by the potential of Republic of Ireland international Molumby.
“I think people have put two and two together a little bit because he wasn’t involved at Preston,” said Potter.
“Jayson’s got some fantastic attributes, great qualities, a really competitive guy, wants to play football, wants to play for Brighton.
“He’s a really good person to have around and we’re excited for him for his future.”