BOSS Chris Hughton believes Lewis Dunk has come of age with the captaincy as Albion's central defender prepares to shake hands with Paul Pogba.

Dunk leads the Seagulls against Manchester United at the Amex tomorrow (4pm) in the absence of Bruno with a hamstring injury.

Pogba deputises again as United skipper, as Antonio Valencia is still sidelined.

Hughton has watched Dunk grown into his leadership responsibilities when Bruno is not in the side, including a famous win against Arsenal at the Amex last season.

Hughton said: "Yes, I think we have seen that maturity in his game. He had a couple of seasons with a few bookings and a few parts of his game that needed that bit more experience and maturity and we have seen that in him.

"That's gone along with his development in the game. Being vice-captain and captain when Bruno's out will add to that."

Brighton-born Dunk's defensive partner Shane Duffy says he is made for the role.

"I think it suits him more," Duffy told The Argus. "He's comfortable here. Everyone's got that respect for him. People look up to him. He's got the respect of all the players. It drives him on a bit, so it's a great role for him."

The Dunk-Duffy partnership is key to Albion's hopes of another successful season and trying to prevent United scoring away from home in the Premier League for three games in succession for the first time in 13 years.

The sequence includes the 1-0 defeat at the Amex in May, which sealed Albion's safety.

Hughton said: "It's a tough task when you are a centre-half in this division against the quality but that's the challenge for them again.

"They were both very good last season and the challenge for them is to be as good. If they are that's a big benefit defensively to the team."

United's visit launches a daunting run for Albion as they tackle last season's top four in the next six fixtures.

"You always have to look at the positives," Hughton said. "I certainly don't speak out of turn when I say it's very difficult to get results against the top six, particularly away from home. They are the top six for a reason.

"But you have to be confident going into those games. We have shown that if we are on top of our game, tactically get things right, we can compete, albeit it last season mostly at home. You can't go into any game already thinking you are going to lose."

United chief Jose Mourinho has denied reports of a strained relationship with France's World Cup winning midfielder Pogba, who led the team to victory in their opening game against Leicester at Old Trafford.

Mourinho insisted: "The truth is I have never been so happy with him as I am now."