Paul Pogba (£8.0m) and Luke Shaw (£5.0m) look set to be the focus of transfer activity this week after they both scored in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Leicester City.
However, there was no clean sheet for the Red Devils and the large number of David De Gea (£6.0m) owners, as Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) wiped it out late on.
In this first Scout Notes article of the new season, we take a look at what we learned from the first match.
World Cup Overthink?
Friday night’s match day squads may have some Fantasy managers (and writers!) worried that the affect of the World Cup on FPL may not prove as extensive as first thought.
Pogba started the opening match of the campaign quite unexpectedly, even though his extended involvement in the World Cup meant he only returned to training earlier this week.
Pogba was not the only name in the match day squads to take Fantasy managers by surprise either. Marcus Rashford (£7.0m) was named alongside Alexis Sánchez (£10.5m) in a two-man United attack and Romelu Lukaku (£11.0m) played the last 25 minutes. The fact that the Belgian was able to feature at the end would suggest he will be in the frame to start in Gameweek 2 – which could spell the end for Sánchez’s chances of playing centre-forward for much longer.
It was just the same for Leicester. Harry Maguire (£5.5m) and Vardy were considered strong doubts for Gameweek 1, but the centre-back started the match and the latter came on as a second-half substitute to score.
It had initially appeared that there was merit in avoiding any players who had made it to at least the semi-finals of the World Cup. However, if Friday’s team-sheets set the tone for the rest of Gameweek 1, the decision to avoid certain assets could prove costly.
The fact that Pogba took the third minute penalty which opened the scoring for United, will improve his popularity between now and Gameweek 2. However, there are still several unknown factors when it comes to the penalty-taking situation at Old Trafford.
“We don’t have a penalty taker, it’s how we feel and I decided to take it. Maybe on the next game I leave it to Alexis.” – Paul Pogba
Obviously the above quote, given post-match confuses things, but it also remains to be seen whether Pogba would take penalties when sharing the pitch with Lukaku, for example. Furthermore, as the spot-kick was awarded for a handball, this may have played a part. Had Sanchez been fouled for it, he may have been more likely to claim it.
Although, even if penalties are not necessarily nailed-on for Pogba, there were signs that he could be the influential figure United need in midfield this season. After playing an important role for France at the World Cup, he showed great leadership skills against Leicester, demonstrating the energy both to win back possession in midfield and distribute the ball around his team mates. These were obviously factors towards him earning two bonus points in the match – all furthering his appeal for subsequent Gameweeks.
“(The World Cup) is the past. Now I am someone who likes challenges and I want to improve and progress. You have to keep working to get better and better. I won’t be full for a World Cup, I want to win other trophies. I didn’t win the Premier League or the Champions League.” – Paul Pogba
However, the fact that Pogba played this match without pre-season under his belt, there is probably still a possibility that he could be rested for Gameweek 2, although we’ll need more information first.
“I didn’t have any pre-season game, I came back on Monday. It was very hard and difficult for the legs and stamina.” – Paul Pogba
ARE YOU SHAW?
The 3.7 percent of managers who opted to invest in Shaw, as a cheaper route into the United defence, were rewarded on Friday night – but not in the way they were expecting. The left-back scored his first ever senior goal for the club in the second-half after Juan Mata’s (£6.5m) cross to the back-post.
One thing that had put off potential buyers during the summer was a fear over rotation for Shaw, with Ashley Young (£6.0m) expected to be back in action soon following the World Cup and Mourinho’s historically fractious relationship with the former Southampton man.
However, the fact that Shaw was a threat going forward, and did well to finish for his goal, may well be in his favour when Young starts to challenge for his place again.
Fantasy managers may have to keep an eye on what information comes out of the United camp next week on Young’s situation before jumping on Shaw too quickly.
The 30 percent of Fantasy managers who backed David De Gea (£6.0m) were so nearly rewarded with a clean sheet at the first time of asking. The shutout would have almost certainly immediately factored into the ongoing debate over whether selecting one premium goalkeeper has value compared to rotating two budget shot-stoppers.
But the cheaper strategy looks to be safe, at least for now, especially when it comes to the Red Devils’ defence anyway. Although they were close to a seventh shut-out in 10 league matches, United were not as in control of the meeting as they’d have liked.
In fact, Leicester actually enjoyed more possession than their hosts and took more shots than them too. The Foxes fired off 13 efforts to United’s eight. Mourinho’s side were the more accurate with six shots on target to Leicester’s four but given the amount of opportunities they were able to create it does leave a question mark over United’s defence.
There were some encouraging signs from that end of the pitch for the Red Devils, though. One of those was obviously Shaw, but the other was a start for Matteo Darmian (£5.0m), despite reports that he was not going to travel with the squad for the match. As the only feasible option at right-back with Antonio Valencia (£6.5m) and Diogo Dalot (£5.5m) injured and the most-used player there in pre-season, it could still factor into his decision to exit the club this summer. Even if he lasts a few weeks before leaving, he presents another cheaper option in the United back-line if it becomes apparent that they need to be covered.
Eric Bailly (£5.5m) seems to have come through the match unscathed too, after he was a slight injury doubt earlier in the week. This is also good news as he is the most likely of United’s centre-backs to have a run in the side when fit, and was the most-used in that position over the summer. His availability would further remove the pressure over having to sign De Gea for United defensive coverage.
OUT OF POSITION WATCH
New Leicester City signing Ricardo Pereira (£5.0m) has already put himself on the Fantasy radar after his performance at Old Trafford.
Classified as a defender in FPL, he played on the right flank of attacking midfield for the first hour of the match, only moving back when Rachid Ghezzal (£5.5m) came on for Daniel Amartey (£4.5m). That tactical switch put Ghezzal into midfield and Pereira return to his more familiar right-back position.
That did not stop the former Porto man from involving himself in Fantasy points, though. He was the man who provided the assist for Vardy’s late clean sheet buster.
Fantasy managers will have to keep an eye on his positioning to see if he is deployed there again, although once Ghezzal commands a starting place in the team, that may force him back. In the mean-time, favourable fixtures against Wolves (H) and Southampton (A) could be used to exploit Pereira’s position – although we will still need more information before backing him as a transfer target.
MOURINHO STILL NOT HAPPY
While three points on the opening day of the season will put a positive spin on Man United’s Friday night exploits, Mourinho is still not a completely happy man. There were plenty of Fantasy managers who were put off United assets by the negative feel around the club, and that cloud may continue to hang over Old Trafford, especially considering transfer deadline day did not go according to plan.
“I needed more changes, but I couldn’t. It was not easy to manage the game from the touchline point of view. We saw lots of glimpses of the type of football we want to see. Of course, it will be a difficult season for everybody. For us it will be a difficult season because I had my plans, and I had my plans for many months, and I started the Premier League season without a situation I thought. That’s football, that’s football management, I think football is changing and probably football managers should be called head coaches. I think we are ore the head coach than the manager.” – Jose Mourinho
MANCHESTER UNITED XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Shaw, Lindelof, Bailly, Darmian; Fred (McTominay 75′), Pogba (Fellaini 84′), A Pereira; Sánchez, Rashford (Lukaku 65′), Mata.
LEICESTER CITY XI (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Chilwell, Maguire, Morgan, Amartey (Ghezzal 62′); Silva (Iborra 80′), Nidda; Gray, Maddison (Vardy 62′), R Pereira; Iheanacho.
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