The build-up to Erik ten Hag’s first competitive game as Manchester United boss has been overshadowed by speculation over Cristiano Ronaldo’s future, but the Dutchman insists he is happy with the striker, as well as the rest of his Red Devils squad.

Having asked to leave after United finished sixth in the Premier League last term, Ronaldo was widely criticised for leaving a pre-season friendly early last week.

But Erik Ten hag says the focus on the 37-year-old is unfair, telling the media ahead of Sunday’s clash with Brighton and Hove Albion: “The spotlight is on Ronaldo, and that’s not right.

“He was part of it, but again it was a lot of players. I think we said enough of it. I said it’s not correct, clear. You mention it, correct them, and then move on.

“I think I am satisfied with the whole team, they’re working well, it’s a good culture. And also Ronaldo, he’s working really hard.”

Brighton, meanwhile, hammered United 4-0 at the AMEX Stadium in their last meeting, but have never won at Old Trafford in 14 competitive trips (D2 L12).

And after a positive 2021-22 campaign saw them finish ninth in the top flight, Brighton boss Graham Potter is hoping to see further development this season.

“The path isn’t necessarily a straight one, there’s always a little bit of change because of things that happen,” Potter said.

“We have to remember that we are in the Premier League, we fought very hard and long to be here.

“It’s the hardest competition in the world so everybody’s tough to beat, we have to make sure we understand that and then keep on developing your own ideas and your game, try to move forward and have ambitions, try to take every game as it comes and try to win.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manchester United – Bruno Fernandes

Fernandes has been involved in six goals in his five Premier League appearances against Brighton (four goals, two assists) – only against Leeds (eight) has the Portuguese been involved in more. With question marks remaining over Ronaldo’s involvement, the midfielder could play a key role.

Brighton and Hove Albion – Pascal Gross

Gross has scored more Premier League goals against Manchester United than he has any other opponent (four). He’s scored in all three of Brighton’s Premier League victories against the Red Devils, netting the winning goal on two occasions.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Manchester United will be opening a top-flight season against Brighton and Hove Albion for the first time in their history, while this is just their second league clash in the month of August, after a 3-2 defeat at the Amex in 2018.

– Brighton and Hove Albion have lost six of their last seven Premier League games against Man Utd but did win last time out in May 2022 (4-0) – only versus Manchester City (nine) have the Seagulls lost more Premier League contests than versus Man Utd (seven).

– Manchester United have won their opening Premier League match in 10 of the last 13 seasons (L3), winning 5-1 against Leeds United last season. The Red Devils ended 2021-22 with a defeat – they’ve not lost their last game of one season and first game of the next since 1973.

– After losing six consecutive league games in February/March, Brighton have lost just one of their last nine (W5 D3). Only Liverpool (23), Manchester City (23) and Tottenham (20) earned more Premier League points in April and May last season than the Seagulls (18).

– Erik ten Hag will be the eighth manager (including caretakers) to take charge of Manchester United in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Six of the previous seven in that time have won their first ever match in charge of the Red Devils, with Louis van Gaal the only exception (1-2 vs Swansea).