Fantasy Premier League managers will be paying close attention to the fitness of Nemanja Matic (£5.0m) in the coming weeks.
His absence from the side has had a knock-on effect on the assets around him, especially for Paul Pogba (£9.0m).
The midfielder was captained by 730,000+ in Gameweek 29, in time for a negative score.
Whether he is worth holding, with Blank Gameweeks coming up, is now very much a question Fantasy managers are considering.
Manchester United 3-2 Southampton
Goals: Andreas Pereira (£4.5m), Romelu Lukaku x2 (£10.7m) | Yan Valery (£4.0m), James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m)
Assists: Diogo Dalot (£5.3m), Pereira, Fred (£5.4m) | Charlie Austin (£5.5m), Stuart Armstrong (£5.1m)
The Gameweek 29 win over Southampton saw Pogba’s Fantasy appeal drop once again, as he continues to deputise for the injured Matic in a deeper role. The Frenchman was deployed in the central midfield trio for the third match in a row on Saturday, after enjoying plenty of time in a more attacking role before Matic’s absence.
Consequently, Pogba has seen his goal threat drop in recent outings. Between Gameweeks 24 and 26, he registered 14 penalty box touches, 10 goal attempts, seven in the box and five on target. That was converted into a total of 30 FPL points, at an average of 10 per game. In the three matches that have followed it’s just eight touches in the box, six goal attempts, three in the box and three on target. Factor in a miss from the spot and it’s just seven points in that time, an average of 2.33.
However, that does not necessarily mean Pogba should be on the way out of our teams. Despite the miss against Southampton, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he will take the next penalty and while it’s Arsenal and a Blank next for Manchester United, they have two fixtures in Gameweek 32, against Watford (home) and Wolves (away). Those who signed Pogba at around £8.0m now have a sizeable amount of profit tied up in him and may prefer to hold him through the Blanks with those Doubles in mind.
“I just said to him there: ‘Get ready for the next one, because you’re gonna take that as well’. I’ve missed penalties. He’s a confident boy, he wants to go and take the next one, you want that character and today was one of the ones he really blasted them, he normally just places them, so he’ll be okay.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
There is also a chance that Pogba could still return to his more attacking role against Arsenal anyway. He became much more of a threat against Southampton after Solskjaer put Fred (£5.4m) into the action. He sat deeper to allow Pogba to push forward, although that may have been because Manchester United
In contrast to Pogba’s recent shift, Andreas Pereira (£4.5m) looks like he could find himself in a more advanced role at Manchester United. The 23-year-old started for the third home match in a row and was a crucial part of the Red Devils’ comeback. Only two of Pereira’s colleagues recorded more touches in the final third than him and nobody created more chances than him at Old Trafford. That translated into a goal, an assist, two bonus, a 12-point haul and high praise from Solskjaer.
“So pleased for him and so happy for him. He’s gone through the academy, we know what he’s capable of. He’s got loads of energy, drive, we maybe found a better position for him than as a number six, more of an eight or 10. He’s got high energy quality in his passing, crossing and shooting. So pleased for him, a goal and an assist, it’s a nice day for him to remember.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Up front, Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m) may be forcing his way back into the equation after a second successive brace for Manchester United. After a spell of games deployed on the right flanks of attacking midfield, the Belgian has returned to a centre-forward role and is reaping the rewards. Against Crystal Palace, he was the lone striker but played alongside Marcus Rashford (£7.7m) in a front two in Gameweek 29.
Lukaku outperformed his English colleague for total goal attempts, shots in the box and efforts on target. It was the latter that the former Everton man was so impressive, recording four accurate efforts to Rashford’s zero. The latter was unfortunate not to get some attacking returns as it was him who was fouled for the penalty that Pogba missed, but Lukaku was clearly the better player from open play. In the last four Gameweeks, no player has more shots on target as him. With the Double Gameweeks coming up for Manchester United, Lukaku may have put himself on the radar as a potential differential captain option in those rounds of fixtures.
“(Lukaku) is a quality goalscorer. We need to have him more in front of the goal but he’s done fantastic in his work rate, attitude, and he keeps working every single day on his finishing. He loves scoring goals, he smiles every day after training because he does extra finishing every day and that’s the way to score goals. If you practice that practice comes out on a Saturday. He’s got goalscorers’ qualities, finishing, he knows what he wants to do and he’s got the quality to do it, right foot, left foot.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Manchester United’s injury crisis looks to have worsened in the win over Southampton as Alexis Sánchez (£10.0m) was taken off with a potentially long-term injury. It is too soon to tell the extent of the damage with Solskjaer fearing it could be ligament-related.
“We don’t know yet. We haven’t checked it too much, it might be the ligament. It was a bad knock on his knee, we’ll do a scan tomorrow but we don’t know until we’ve done the scan.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Fantasy managers might be able to capitalise on this development though. Sánchez’s replacement was FPL defender Diogo Dalot (£5.3m) who, for the second time in as many matches, played on the flanks of attacking midfield. His introduction switched Manchester United’s formation from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-3-3 with Rashford on one wing and Dalot on the other. No player played as many key passes as Dalot at Old Trafford, despite his 38-minute pitch-time, and he also provided an assist. With Sánchez doubtful and other midfield assets also on the sidelines, a real opportunity has opened up for Dalot to get some regular starts as an out of position option.
While Manchester United’s defence conceded twice against Southampton, there continues to be signs of encouragement for Luke Shaw (£5.1m). Despite no attacking returns, his presence in the final third still shows potential. Only Lukaku had more touches in that area of the pitch against Southampton.
“It’s hard to try and pinpoint anything that I’ve changed, I haven’t changed anything massively. ”I think it’s more down to confidence and enjoying myself again, a lot of which is down to the manager and the way he is with me. He’s helped me a lot since he’s come in and I think he’s helped a lot of other players as well. We’re very lucky to have this job but to do it day-in, day-out, like any job, you need to enjoy it. The more you enjoy it, the more you get out of it, and I think everyone’s showing that at the moment. Real positive things are happening and that’s showing on the pitch but also off the pitch. This place is a much better environment. There are lots of positives but I just need to keep going, keep focused and keep enjoying football.” – Luke Shaw
Southampton certainly gave Manchester United a fright, scoring the opening goal and pulling it back to 2-2 once the hosts had edged in front themselves. However, the Saints expected goals (xG) for the match was actually as low 0.43. That was because the first of their two strikes was an outstanding effort from range by right-back Yan Valery (£4.0m), while the second was a James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m) direct free-kick. On another day, Southampton might have also had a couple of penalties themselves but in open play, Manchester United were statistically untroubled. It means that in the last four home matches, only Manchester City have conceded fewer shots in the box as the Red Devils.
Nevertheless, Valery earned plenty of praise for his wonder-strike, after progressing very well in recent months. The wing-back has started six of the last seven matches on the right of Southampton’s five-man midfield and probably offers better value than colleague Jan Bednarek (£4.0m), given his attacking positioning.
“I think Yan Valery like Prowsey also are two young guys we try to develop and to bring them on the next level. Yan made fantastic jobs in the last games in the defence and what he was missing was more brave in the attacking situation and he showed he can be brave also. It was a marvellous goal.” – Ralph Hasenhüttl
Ward-Prowse now has five goals in the last eight Gameweeks as he continues to prove the best of Southampton’s Fantasy assets. While he offered no goal threat from open play, his role in set pieces led to his latest goal and he was the Saints’ joint-top chance creator at Old Trafford.
“Prowsey in the last weeks is a key player for us, working hard also on the ball and making good decisions. He is in fantastic shape at the moment and he can score with his fantastic shooting technique. It’s a pity that we didn’t get something for it.” – Ralph Hasenhüttl
Investment in Southampton might not be advisable at this time though. It’s the visit of Spurs in Gameweek 30, followed by a Blank in Gameweek 31 and a trip to Brighton after that.
Manchester United XI (4-3-1-2): De Gea; Shaw, Lindelöf, Smalling, Young; Pogba, McTominay, A Pereira (Fred 82′); Sánchez (Dalot 52′); Lukaku, Rashford (Chong 90+5′).
Southampton XI (3-5-2): Gunn; Vestergaard, Yoshida (Gallagher 90′), Bednarek; Bertrand, Højbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Valery; Austin (Armstrong 63′), Redmond.