Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has declared Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial fit to play in Manchester United’s second Gameweek 32 fixture against Wolves on Tuesday.
Martial limped out of United’s 2-1 win over Watford on Saturday, while Lukaku was an unused substitute having picked up a foot injury over the international break.
Speaking to the club’s website on Monday morning, Solskjaer said:
Anthony and Romelu will both be ready for tomorrow, definitely, unless they break down in training today [Monday] but it looks good, yeah.
The now-permanent United boss also ruled four players out of the trip to Molineux but will welcome Victor Lindelof back into the first-team fold:
Victor has had a good few days of training now so he’ll be ready. Apart from that, [Matteo] Darmian and Eric [Bailly] are still out. [Antonio] Valencia is still out and Alexis Sanchez is still out. But it’s a good strong squad.
There is, of course, nothing that Fantasy Premier League managers can do ahead of United’s second Gameweek 32 fixture but Saturday’s underwhelming display against the Hornets may have added to existing doubts about some of their Fantasy assets going into Gameweek 34 and beyond (both the Red Devils and Javi Gracia’s side blank in Gameweek 33).
Of particular concern will be Paul Pogba‘s drop-off in performances and underlying statistics and the Frenchman is the initial focus of our Scout Notes below.
Manchester United 2-1 Watford
- Goals: Marcus Rashford (£7.6m), Anthony Martial (£7.2m) | Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.9m)
- Assists: Luke Shaw (£5.1m) | Isaac Success (£4.6m)
No penalty box touches, no chances created and one 30-yard shot that was blocked: Paul Pogba‘s (£8.9m) key numbers in the win over Watford on Saturday won’t have changed the growing opinion that the Frenchman’s Fantasy appeal is not what it was.
Underlying statistics don’t always tell the whole story but those watching the match will have voiced similar concerns over Pogba’s below-par display, which brought to mind some of his inconsistent, infuriating performances under Jose Mourinho.
We can’t be too hard on the France international after his unsustainable purple patch between Gameweeks 18 to 26 but his tail-off in key performance indicators isn’t a one-week anomaly: Pogba’s rate of penalty box touches, attempts on goal and key passes under Solksjaer has dropped by 50% or more from Gameweek 27 onwards.
The thought that the return of the defence-minded Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic (both £5.0m) might aid his cause didn’t pan out either, with those two midfielders flattering to deceive against the Hornets at Old Trafford.
Pogba had initially lined up alongside those two players in a 4-3-3 but Watford’s early dominance prompted a reshuffle from Solskjaer midway through the first half, with the Frenchman subsequently playing alongside Herrera in a 4-4-2 diamond and the hitherto poor Juan Mata (£6.1m) brought in off the flank to play as a “number ten” – a role that Pogba’s owners would love to see him regularly occupy.
Solskjaer’s post-match comments about Pogba’s positional flexibility – and a possible deeper role in the future – only furthered concerns.
The Norwegian said:
Paul is important to us. We couldn’t keep the ball today and, as I’ve said, 50-50 possession at home, you’re a bit disappointed with that.
But Paul has been away and he’s played two games for France. Of course, he’s playing a bit deeper for them so that might be something we have to think about as well to get him more involved in the game and make him dictate games more for us.
That’s from game to game. As you can see, Paul can do both. He can attack and defend.
As mentioned, Herrera and Matic weren’t any better, while Mata proved that he is not a right-winger in a 4-3-3 with an awful showing early on.
Even Anthony Martial (£7.2m), who followed up his own rebound to put United 2-0 in front, didn’t really impress despite his eye-catching penalty box touch and “big chance” counts (two of which were admittedly accounted for by his goal).
The lively Marcus Rashford (£7.6m) and Luke Shaw (£5.1m) did shine, however, and it was those two players who combined for United’s opener when Rashford ran on to his team-mate’s superb through-ball to dink a finish over Ben Foster (£4.6m).
I thought Rashy was fantastic, he gave us the energy that the others lacked.
Luke has got so much in his locker and I can’t wait to see it blossom. He’s exceptional going forward and his sharpness defending, as well. I thought he was top class until he got his cramp.
Shaw avoided collecting his tenth booking of the season but still has one match to go before the threat of a possible two-game ban passes.
With Victor Lindelof (£5.1m) omitted for personal reasons, Phil Jones (£5.1m) and Chris Smalling (£5.6m) lined up at centre-back and those two defenders had to be at their best to repel a Watford attack that registered 20 shots to United’s eight.
Solskjaer suggested that injuries had plagued his preparations for Saturday’s match and affected United’s performance:
The first 20 minutes, we started so slow and sloppy. You could see that we’ve had players out with injuries. We’ve not really been able to train them that much. It’s one of
themfirst games after the international break: you’re looking forward to them, but you know they might be a potential banana skin.
But after we scored – great goal, by the way – I thought the rest of the first half we played some great counter-attacking stuff. We defended well, we had to because they were dominant, but I thought Chris and Jones especially were fantastic and kept us in it.
Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.9m) scored Watford’s consolation after a neat one-two with substitute Isaac Success (£4.6m) but even before that point the Frenchman impressed with his all-action display, dominating the United midfield and popping up frequently in dangerous areas: Doucoure had more shots than anyone on show at Old Trafford and registered more penalty box touches than Troy Deeney (£5.9m).
Many FPL managers will overlook Doucoure, of course, given that there is a cheaper, “out of position” option in the Watford midfield.
Gerard Deulofeu (£5.7m) lacked end product in Manchester on Saturday but was still a lively presence in the Watford attack, registering more penalty box touches than any other player bar Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) in Gameweek 32 thus far.
Roberto Pereyra (£6.0m), creator of a match-high five chances, and budget midfielder Will Hughes (£4.9m) were also prominent in and around the United area even if their final ball, like Deulofeu’s, was often found wanting.
Still, to go away to Old Trafford and dominate the hosts was a positive sign for easier tests ahead.
Gracia said of his side’s display:
We had a good performance. It’s true, it wasn’t enough to get the points but I’m happy with the performance. We need to finish better, we need to improve in the last metres. We created chances, we had more shots, more shots on target and more corners. We dominated and played a lot of time in the opposition half.
The first goal was a counter-attack and the second was a moment when we played well. But when you don’t kill the game against these teams with high quality, you know you can lose
inany moment. We tried until the end. We believed but it wasn’t enough.
Fantasy managers who invested in Watford’s attacking assets may not reap the rewards from an appealing home fixture against Fulham on Tuesday if Gracia continues to rotate his squad ahead of the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.
The Watford boss chose Saturday’s match to rest his entire back four from the FA Cup quarter-final win over Palace a fortnight earlier but his front six players were all unchanged and the likes of Deeney and Deulofeu could well be handed a breather at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.
Gracia said of his team selection:
In all the games, I made changes, but I have a good squad. I have to choose different players because in eight days we are going to play three important games. I know all of them are ready to compete, to play. I only have to choose.
The likes of Success and Andre Gray (£5.9m), then, could be handed a rare league start against the relegation-threatened Cottagers.
Daryl Janmaat (£4.9m) hobbled off after 55 minutes of this encounter and will be assessed, with Gracia potentially providing an update in his pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon.
Manchester United XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Young, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Herrera (Pereira 65′) Matic, Pogba; Mata (Lingard 65′) Rashford, Martial (Rojo 75′).
Watford XI (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat (Femenia 56′) Kabasele, Britos, Masina; Hughes (Success 81′), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu (Gray 73′) Deeney.