Manchester United and Chelsea both have two “blue” fixtures on our Season Ticker in Gameweeks 37 and 38.
Chelsea’s matches against mid-table Watford and – especially – Leicester City are far from straightforward, of course, but United face two clubs in the bottom three in the form of Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City.
Any Fantasy managers considering players from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Maurizio Sarri’s sides would have had a keen eye on Sunday’s meeting at Old Trafford but, save for a promising early start from the Red Devils, there wasn’t a great deal to get excited about as the two Champions League-chasing clubs played out a 1-1 draw in the final match of Gameweek 36.
United’s two remaining fixtures may be reason enough to invest in their players, while Chelsea – far better at home in recent times – next face a Watford side at Stamford Bridge that has conceded more “big chances” than any other Premier League team in 2019.
It is probably fair to say that the primary reason we as Fantasy managers would consider players from either Chelsea or (particularly) United would be less about their own qualities and more to do with the calibre of their upcoming opponents.
We reflect on the action from the Sunday tea-time game in our Scout Notes below and round up the latest injury news.
Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea
- Goals: Juan Mata (£6.1m) | Marcos Alonso (£6.2m)
- Assists: Luke Shaw (£5.0m) | Antonio Rudiger (£5.9m)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said “inconsistency” and tiredness were factors as his side delivered a mixed display in their 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
United came racing out of the blocks in the first quarter of the game, pressing Chelsea high up the pitch and taking an early lead as they briefly resembled the side that excelled in Solskjaer’s ‘honeymoon period’.
The Red Devils were very clearly leggy in the second half, however, with perhaps the physical exertions of Double Gameweek 35 and the demands of their manager’s high-intensity tactics catching up with them.
The concession of an equaliser to Chelsea just before the interval also seemed to be a hammer blow from a confidence point of view.
Reflecting on the game, Solskjaer said:
Today, I was very happy with the start, maybe it’s been inconsistency because we were flying in the first half, creating chances, on the front foot, play and run, and I think everyone was very pleased with the performance.
Of course, we’re disappointed to come in at half-time with a draw. The mood in the dressing room was very good, backing each other, said the right things.
Second half, it was just a scrappy game. Never got the quality from either team, we certainly didn’t get the intensity and quality in our pressing and the ball suddenly started to go two or three touches rather than one or two in the first half.
We were tired towards the end of the game, that’s for sure. We’ve addressed that issue before, we have just got to take one step at a time.
And there were periods today you feel when Scotty [McTominay] comes on we get those legs again, legs going, and we depend on everyone being fresh and fit.
There was a 40-minute period in the second half where United didn’t register a single shot on goal, before substitute Marcos Rojo (£4.9m) forced Pedro (£6.2m) into a goalline clearance in injury time.
Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m) epitomised United’s display: powerful and pacy in the opening exchanges but already flagging after half an hour.
The positives for United is that they will face far less taxing tests in the form of Huddersfield and Cardiff and, following the three-game week they have just endured, now have a seven-day break before they take on the rock-bottom Terriers.
The “Huddersfield Effect” can’t be underestimated, while a deflated Cardiff could very well be relegated by the time they entertain United in Gameweek 38.
Certainly, there were positive signs in the first half of Sunday’s match at Old Trafford.
Juan Mata‘s (£6.1m) goal was beautifully crafted by Paul Pogba (£8.5m), Lukaku and Luke Shaw (£5.0m), while Lukaku had earlier spurned another excellent opportunity when played through by the United left-back and Eric Bailly (£5.0m) nodded an Ashley Young (£5.7m) corner inches wide on 28 minutes.
Shaw is someone we had picked out in a top 10k differentials piece yesterday, with United next up against the two lowest-scoring teams in the top flight.
The full-back has shown he can supplement (or compensate for a lack of) clean sheet points with occasional attacking returns this season and his assist for Mata’s goal was his fifth of 2018/19.
The early “big chance” he created for Lukaku helped him to maximum bonus yesterday, despite United being deprived of a clean sheet for the ninth Premier League match in a row.
David de Gea (£5.7m) was again culpable for the goal that United conceded, spilling Antonio Rudiger‘s (£5.9m) shot and unable to stop Marcos Alonso (£6.2m) from converting the loose ball.
Asked about his under-fire goalkeeper after the game, Solskjaer said:
He’s been in the spotlight for the right reasons for so long and now he’s going through a period where he probably feels he could have done better.
I don’t have any worries about him because he’s a strong character.
I’ll sit down and speak to David as I’ve done when he’s played well. He’s not the reason why we’re in the sixth position at the moment.
You cannot say there is any complacency, David is not the type to sit down and be complacent. He is a competitor and he wants to be the best.
David knows he could have done better with the goal, there’s no reason hiding that, but there’s no chance any of us will point fingers because he’s saved us so many times.
Marcus Rashford‘s (£7.3m) barren run continued and the England striker has only one attacking return in the last 11 Gameweeks.
Paired alongside Lukaku in a 4-4-2 diamond, Rashford had more penalty box touches than anyone on show but his one shot on goal was an ambitious 30-yard effort from distance.
The England striker had the lowest pass completion rate of any starting outfield player yesterday and the belief that he can, at times, be selfish in possession would only have gained traction yesterday.
Solskjaer revealed that Rashford had been struggling with a shoulder injury before the game and he was indeed withdrawn just after the hour mark, with the Norwegian saying:
Rashy’s struggled with his shoulder and he came through an hour, but couldn’t do more.
Bailly was also helped from the field with a knee injury and Solskjaer said of the Ivorian defender’s condition:
He will need a scan tomorrow but I don’t think it is the worst knee injury you can have. He will be out for the rest of the season, I don’t think we will see him again before next season.
Pogba began the match on the left-hand side of the midfield diamond and was better than he had been in recent weeks but his deeper role continues to be a deterrent from a Fantasy perspective – the Frenchman didn’t register a single shot or key pass and touched the ball just once in the Chelsea box.
Pogba now averages 3.3 FPL points per match in the last ten Gameweeks and that figure would be even worse were it not for the two goals he scored from the penalty spot against West Ham.
Pogba’s penalty-taking responsibility is still worth considering for Gameweeks 37 and 38, however: Huddersfield and Cardiff have conceded 15 spot-kicks between them this season.
This was another Chelsea away performance that won’t live long in the memory, with the Blues having just three shots on target – two of which led to their goal.
Gonzalo Higuain‘s (£9.0m) stoppage-time “big chance” was the only other time that de Gea was called into action.
Higuain, whose only attacking returns have come against sides in the bottom six, disappointed again and frustrated by repeatedly getting caught offside.
The injured Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m) and the benched Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) were arguably missed, with Willian (£7.1m) and Mateo Kovacic (£5.7m) offering little of note in their stead.
Willian was one of two Chelsea players to be substituted with an injury, with Rudiger – just back from a knee problem – also limping off.
Maurizio Sarri said of his injured players:
I think the most serious situation is Rudiger, with his knee. Willian at the moment is in trouble but I think it is only a knock so we can try to recover him. For the next match in the Europa League, probably Antonio will be out.
The stats may show that Chelsea had more than twice as many shots as United but there were few clear-cut opportunities within them and half came from outside the area.
Sarri admitted that his side had struggled in the first half, saying:
If I look at the first 20 minutes I am very happy [with a point], but if I look at the last minute when we had the goal opportunity, the most important in the second half, I am not happy.
But to play here in Manchester against United I think is very difficult for us and every team. They played very well in the first 25 minutes, we were in trouble. We were in trouble as we did not have the right distances between the striker, Higuain, and the midfielders. We were in trouble to cover the ball to the defenders. The ball was always a free ball, and they are really very happy when they are dangerous when they can have space and attack behind the line.
We were better in the last part of the first half and better in the second half and we didn’t risk anything in the second half, except for the corner in the last five minutes.
A draw is not too important for us as we need to win the last two matches, otherwise, we are at risk with the goal difference I think.
The fit-again Alonso scored his first goal since Gameweek 2 but owners of Leicester assets will be encouraged by Chelsea’s overall defensive deficiencies ahead of their meeting at the King Power Stadium in Gameweek 38: this was the eighth successive away league game in which they have failed to keep a clean sheet.
With Chelsea in Europa League semi-final action this week and next, it will be also interesting to monitor Sarri’s team selections in Gameweeks 37 and 38.
Whether the Blues’ boss would even consider handing Eden Hazard (£10.9m) a breather against Watford remains to be seen, with a top-four place not yet secure but with the visit of the Hornets falling in between that double-header against Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Belgian was not at his scintillating best yesterday but much of Chelsea’s play flowed through Hazard and he had far more touches in the final third (49) than any other player at Old Trafford.
Hazard has no goals and one assist in his last nine Premier League appearances on the road and his remaining Fantasy appeal would be largely for Gameweek 37, given that Chelsea are away at in-form Leicester on the final day.
Speaking of Hazard and his future, Sarri said:
I don’t know anything new at the moment. But in this moment for me, it is not really very important. I am very happy with Eden, he is playing very well and he fights on the pitch, so I am really very happy. As I say in every press conference, I want to respect his decision.
Manchester United XI (4-1-2-1-2): De Gea; Young, Bailly (Rojo 70′), Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera; Pogba, Matic; Mata (McTominay 80′) Lukaku, Rashford (Sanchez 65′)
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger (Christensen 64′), Luiz, Alonso; Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 75′), Hazard, Higuain, Willian (Pedro 83′).