Two more matches to bring you up to speed with from Wednesday evening, including a Marcus Rashford-inspired victory for Manchester United on Tyneside.
We’ve got all the goals, assists, Fantasy talking points, manager quotes and injury news from the two Premier League fixtures at Newcastle and Huddersfield last night.
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United
- Goals: Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m), Marcus Rashford (£7.2m)
- Assists: Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez (£10.0m)
After the maulings of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth, this was a different test for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his new charges.
Patience was key to this encounter, with Newcastle – as they so often do against “big six” sides – producing a dogged display to deny the Red Devils the room they enjoyed in the three preceding matches and offering more of an attacking threat than was perhaps expected before the game.
Fittingly from the former super-sub, it was a double-change just after the hour-mark that helped swing the result, with Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m) and Alexis Sanchez (£10.0m) both making a significant contribution after entering the field of play.
The visitors were still indebted to a fumble from Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) to break the deadlock, however, and only after this point did the Red Devils cut loose.
Solskjaer’s side had opportunities before this goal, with Marcus Rashford (£7.2m) denied by a Dubravka block from close range and Anthony Martial (£7.3m) shanking a shot over from a decent position, but the Magpies gave as a good as they got going forward and had chances of their own to take the lead.
The decisive moment came on 63 minutes, when Dubravka made a hash of Rashford’s Cristiano Ronaldo-esque, dripping free-kick and Lukaku followed in to prod home with his first touch of the match.
The England forward then bagged a goal of his own following a Manchester United breakaway, with Sanchez teeing up Rashford to claim the assist.
Rashford had mostly played on the right flank in the win over the Cherries, with Jesse Lingard (£6.9m) effectively used as a false nine, but the 21-year-old striker was back in a central role for this fixture and carried the bulk of his team’s threat for much of the game.
With Martial arguably as quiet as he has been under Solskjaer and Juan Mata (£6.2m) perhaps not offering the mobility and dynamism that is required in this new-look side, Rashford’s link-up play and directness up top were key to United’s efforts.
Rashford racked up another seven shots yesterday evening and no FPL forward has recorded as many goal attempts or shots on target in the last six Gameweeks.
The return to fitness of Lukaku (and Sanchez) gives Rashford competition in attack, but in this form, there seems little cause for him to be regularly rotated.
Solskjaer’s comments after full-time also underline the fact that it needn’t be one or the other up front, with Rashford’s versatility a positive to his first-team chances:
You can play with two of them [Rashford and Lukaku], no problem. One can play on the right, or two through the middle. It gives me options.
Paul Pogba (£8.3m) was never going to maintain the same level of FPL returns that he had delivered in the last three Gameweeks and it was almost inevitable that he would blank after being the subject of over 600,000 transfers ahead of the New Year’s Day deadline.
There was plenty of encouragement for owners of the game’s third-most-popular midfielder, however, and his scoring run would have continued but for an excellent chance wasted in stoppage time when rounding Dubravka and firing into the side-netting.
Pogba also curled narrowly wide in the first half with a “no-look” effort and fizzed a low shot at the Newcastle goalkeeper early on, going on to register two key passes and more touches in the final third than all players on show bar Martial.
Newcastle had clearly targeted Pogba for some rough treatment and Jonjo Shelvey‘s (£5.3m) awful tackle on the Frenchman could have resulted in serious damage, with the former Juventus midfielder seen limping onto the team coach after the match – though Pogba finished the game and there is no suggestion that there is any lasting damage.
The roughhousing only seemed to motivate Pogba, anyway, with Solskjaer adding:
You need to rattle Paul Pogba at times to get him going, he has been immense for us.
This was the Red Devils’ first clean sheet since Gameweek 13 and only their third of the season but Fantasy managers will likely need more convincing than a shut-out against a side who have scored fewer goals than all teams bar Huddersfield in 2018/19 before they lump on Luke Shaw (£4.9m) and co.
Phil Jones (£5.1m) looked shaky at centre-back but Victor Lindelöf (£4.8m) produced another fine performance alongside him, largely shackling Salomon Rondon (£5.8m) throughout.
Solskjaer pointed out that his side had only conceded from dead-ball situations under his stewardship before this match:
We’ve had a clean sheet in every single game, apart from set-pieces! When you keep a clean sheet you’ve always got a chance to win a game because we’ve got quality going forward. To keep one of them is a bonus and it’s great.
While Rondon was not his usual menacing self, Christian Atsu (£5.1m) produced another fine display and looks to have nailed a place down in the Newcastle starting XI having started in six of the last seven Premier League matches (being handed a rest on Boxing Day).
Lining up behind Rondon in a 3-4-2-1, Atsu had more shots on goal and penalty box touches than any of his team-mates but could only force David de Gea (£5.7m) into a couple of comfortable saves.
Therein lies the problem with the budget Ghanaian midfielder: for all his eye-catching displays of late (the former Chelsea midfielder performed well at Watford, too), he is without an attacking return all season.
The Magpies rank bottom of our Season Ticker for the next four Gameweeks but as we have discussed, have the potential to frustrate the title-chasing clubs and owners of their Fantasy assets over the coming month.
A trip to Stamford Bridge is up next for Benitez’s side but there could be positive news for those FPL bosses who own Eden Hazard (£11.1m) and co, with Mohamed Diame (£4.9m) limping from the field early in the second half.
The Senegalese midfielder is crucial to the Magpies’ defensive efforts in central midfield and it was no surprise that Benitez’s troops only conceded after his departure, with Shelvey not having the discipline – in any sense of the word – to adequately deputise.
The Newcastle manager seemed to downplay the severity of the problem, however:
It’s in the hip and the groin. He has had this problem before – we hope it will not be serious. He couldn’t continue in the game but, normally, he’s fine in a couple of days.
Newcastle United XI (3-4-2-1): Dubravka; Schar (Muto 81′), Lascelles, Dummett; Yedlin, Hayden, Diame (Shelvey 53′), Ritchie; Perez (Kenedy 69′), Atsu; Rondon.
Manchester United XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Lindelöf, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mata (Sanchez 64′), Rashford (Lingard 87′), Martial (Lukaku 64′).
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Burnley
- Goals: Steve Mounie (£5.8m) | Chris Wood (£6.6m), Ashley Barnes (£5.6m)
- Assists: Isaac Mbenza (£5.9m) | Dwight McNeil (£4.4m), Ashley Westwood (£4.5m)
Two fairly popular budget striking options of 2017/18 have belatedly hit a bit of form after an underwhelming start to 2018/19.
It wasn’t until Gameweek 15 of this season that Sean Dyche paired Ashley Barnes (£5.6m) and Chris Wood (£6.2m) together in the starting XI, which is somewhat surprising given their respective purple patches when playing in tandem at the back-end of the previous Premier League campaign.
It perhaps isn’t a coincidence that Burnley’s best run of performances (if not always results) has come after this point, with the brave displays against Liverpool and Spurs plus the utterly dominant win over West Ham particularly standing out in December.
While the Clarets didn’t quite hit the heights of their 2-0 victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s side, it was a patient, arguably deserved win for Dyche’s troops, who were admittedly helped by Christopher Schindler‘s (£4.4m) dismissal towards the end of the first half.
Wood and Barnes missed a hatful of chances against the Hammers and the Burnley strike pair were again guilty of squandering opportunities in West Yorkshire, with Wood heading wide from close range and Jonas Lossl (£4.4m) twice saving from Barnes when he had a clear sight of goal.
That the two budget forwards are being presented with so many opportunities (a combined seven in this match) is a positive, though, and the pair followed up their attacking returns at Turf Moor with a goal apiece here: Wood latching onto a Dwight McNeil (£4.4m) cross to level the scores at 1-1 before Barnes tucked home an Ashley Westwood (£4.5m) pass.
Speaking after full-time, Dyche hailed the significance of important partnerships across the pitch:
Westy, Corky, the front two – there are reminders of last season, clear minds, the way they’re playing, being effective, all over the pitch – those links.
It’s been a funny season, not always funny “haha” by the way, but it’s looking to find a balance and the connections, and there are clear signs.
We know the second half of the season is going to be a challenge, but we’ve certainly started in the right manner.
The Everton game was a real blip, but the games before that, against some very good sides, we were a lot tighter, there was a lot less in the games, and that’s what I was looking for.
But the last two were definitely worthy of wins, and we’ve got them, and they’re important. We still have a long way to go, but there are clear signs and we have to carry that on now.
It was a second successive assist for McNeil, whose short-term budget appeal increased following the dismissal of Robbie Brady (£5.4m) for a dangerous lunge late on: the Irish winger will now be suspended for Burnley’s next two “winnable” league fixtures against Fulham and Watford.
Right-back Phil Bardsley (£4.2m), meanwhile, limped off with a knock just before the hour-mark.
Steve Mounie (£5.8m) became the first Huddersfield striker to score in 2018/19 but his headed opener from a superb Isaac Mbenza (£5.9m) cross represented the high-mark for the Terriers in this encounter.
Schindler’s red card hardly helped matters but this was another Town display short on cutting edge in attack, with Tom Heaton (£4.8m) having only one further save to make.
This was Huddersfield’s eighth successive defeat and the West Yorkshire club are now eight points adrift of safety, also languishing near the bottom of our Season Ticker for the next five matches.
An upbeat David Wagner said:
This is exactly what makes it so exciting. To be the first one, to beat the statistics.
This is exactly what we have done a few times in the last few years. This is why we do this job, to be the first one who will do something that nobody has done before [avoid relegation after being on so few points at this stage].
We know how difficult this task is. Obviously, it’s so difficult nobody has done it before, but this doesn’t change that we have our plan, our schedule until the end of the season.
Town look set to complete the loan capture of Jason Puncheon (£4.2m) from Crystal Palace, with Wagner adding:
He is an experienced pro, a leader, a player who is calm on the ball and who can give experience to this group, which we need.
He has shown he can score goals as well and, in the end, we are short on numbers.
Now, we have to make sure we bring in one or more players if possible and if we are able to bring him in, I think he will add something to our group.
Huddersfield Town XI (4-2-3-1): Lossl; Hadergjonaj (Lowe 71′), Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo; Hogg, Billing; Kachunga, Pritchard (Durm 44′, Depoitre 82′), Mbenza; Mounie.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Heaton; Bardsley (Lowton 58′), Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, McNeil (Brady 63′); Wood, Barnes (Hendrick 90′).
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