Our pre-season coverage continues with a look at the lessons learned from three games contested on Tuesday.
Manchester United left it late to see off Kristiansund, while there were wins for Burnley and Newcastle United.
We’ll round up all the main talking points – including a treble for Chris Wood (£6.5m) and injuries to two mid-priced Fantasy Premier League defenders – in the Scout Notes article below.
Kristiansund 0-1 Manchester United
- Goals: Juan Mata (£6.5m)
- Assists: None
There was a curious choice of penalty taker as Manchester United saw off Norwegian side Kristiansund with a stoppage-time spot-kick.
Despite Paul Pogba (£8.5m) being on the pitch, it was fellow substitute Juan Mata (£6.5m) who stepped up to convert from 12 yards after the Spaniard had himself been brought down – Pogba having provided a superb through-ball to Mata just before the foul.
Therein may lie the answer: the fact that Mata won the penalty may have earned him the right to take the subsequent spot-kick, with any penalty-taking hierarchy temporarily forgotten due to this game being a meaningless pre-season friendly.
Mata hasn’t taken a Premier League penalty in almost four years, although he did net from 12 yards in the FA Cup win over Reading earlier in 2019.
Mata had indeed been fouled for that penalty against the Royals, while Pogba wasn’t in the team.
Solskjaer has used 27 players in pre-season but we may finally be inching closer to the Norwegian’s favoured starting XI and system.
With the exception of Pogba (who had dropped to the bench after sitting out a training session), one could justifiably argue that United’s team against Kristiansund was close to the one that will take on Chelsea in Gameweek 1.
The contrast between Nemanja Matic (£5.0m) and Scott McTominay‘s (£5.0m) performances in central midfield perhaps suggested that the Serbian midfielder may make way for Pogba, with McTominay impressing in a box-to-box role and striking the woodwork in the first half.
Dan James (£6.0m) started on the
Rashford said of this tactical approach:
It’s never been my aim to be a number nine. It’s about being able to adapt and play in different positions and to be the ultimate forward. I think I can score goals from all positions and I think that’s something that’s shared among the forwards.
If one person is scoring all the goals you get a different feeling as a team than if all the forwards are contributing. It’s definitely a good feeling and it keeps us all on our toes. That’s important.
Jesse Lingard (£6.5m) operated in the hole in a 4-2-3-1, meanwhile.
Full-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw (both £5.5m) again spent most of their time camped in the opposition half as the hosts’ attacking forays were few and far between.
When asked about his Gameweek 1 line-up, Solskjaer replied:
It’s not about one team for the first game and that’s the team for the rest of the season. We’ve got a strong squad and I feel there’s not too big a difference when we make the subs. We’re going to have to find the right balance. I’ve not really picked the first XI yet, but most of the relationships we’ve tried. Milan will be another last test and then let’s see how we decide. I think when Paul Pogba doesn’t start, I think you know it’s not the first XI.
Struggle for goals
United weren’t shot-shy in Norway: Solskjaer’s side chanced their arm on 32 occasions, with ten of them landing on target.
Rashford stung the palms of the hosts’ goalkeepers on three occasions with efforts from distance (one a direct free-kick) but there weren’t too many clear-cut chances carved out by the Red Devils, in spite of the high number of saves made.
Solskjaer said after full-time:
I’ve said before in press conferences that we need to be more clinical. That’s where you win games. I think we’re looking solid at the back. They had a great chance early in the second half and we should have done better.
We’re going to keep working, keep improving, keep making the relationships between the players and the patterns work even better. It’s not a concern but it’s something we’re going to have to improve on.
The expected bad news about Eric Bailly (£5.0m) came in Solskjaer’s post-match press conference.
The Ivorian defender was a casualty of United’s 2-1 win over Spurs last week and his manager provided an update on Tuesday night:
He’s had an operation. He’ll miss the best part of four or five months. Hopefully, we’ll get him back around about Christmas.
It was positive news from the surgeon, he had the operation this morning. He was positive it was all repaired and that he’ll be fine.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea (Romero 60′), Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 60′), Jones (Tuanzebe 60′), Lindelof (Rojo 60′), Shaw (Young 60)’, Matic (Pogba 60′), McTominay (Fred 60′), James (Andreas 60′), Lingard (Mata 60′), Martial (Chong 60), Rashford (Greenwood 60′).
Burnley 6-1 Nice
- Goals: Chris Wood (£6.5m) x3, Jeff Hendrick (£5.5m), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£6.0m), Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m)
- Assists: Ashley Barnes x2 (£6.5m), Gudmundsson, Ben Mee (£5.0m), Matthew Lowton (£4.5m)
No Premier League player has scored more pre-season goals than Chris Wood (£6.5m) this summer.
The Burnley striker has found the back of the net on nine occasions in six friendly appearances, although the large caveat is that his previous half-dozen strikes before Tuesday evening’s treble were all against opponents from the Football League.
Patrick Vieira’s Nice side
The mid-price FPL forward pounced on a loose ball to open the scoring before tapping in a Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£6.0m) cut-back to double the hosts’ advantage.
Both of Wood’s opening two strikes were characteristically from inside the six-yard box; no other Premier League player had more efforts from this zone of the pitch in 2018/19.
Wood had further opportunities to add to his tally but completed his hat-trick after the interval, intercepting an awful pass from a Nice defender – just one of umpteen errors from the French side at Turf Moor – and firing into a half-unguarded net.
Jeff Hendrick (£5.5m), Gudmundsson and substitute Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m) were also on target for the home side.
A well-worked free-kick saw Hendrick control a Ben Mee (£5.0m) header and fire past Yoan Cardinale for Burnley’s third, before Gudmundsson’s speculative effort beat the visiting goalkeeper all too easily on 35 minutes.
Rodriguez came off the bench to finish a Matthew Lowton (£4.5m) cross to round off the scoring.
Ashley Barnes (£6.5m) wasn’t among the goalscorers but claimed the assists for Burnley’s first and fourth strikes.
Competition for Places
Sean Dyche used 20 different players in Lancashire on Tuesday and both he and Wood highlighted the competition for places in the Burnley squad.
The New Zealander said:
It looks like we’ve got two players in each position and it’s a fight for places. Everybody is putting their hands up and it making it hard for the manager, which is a good thing for us.
The boys that have come in – Jay and Erik (Pieters) – have done fantastically well and fitted in brilliantly, so they’re good additions so far.
I thought the attention to detail, the shape, the energy and the quality were all excellent. Those are the things you are after and the over-riding thing is the players are looking fit and sharp and that was on show as well.
There is definitely a good feel and a
reallycompetitive edge about the group and we want that to continue, so I must look at that for the weekend because you want that hunger going into the last week.
There were a lot of really strong performances and people coming off the bench affected the game as well.
The good thing is we have a really good, competitive squad and the way we have balanced their minutes allows us to look at options.
On top of the players used on Tuesday, the Clarets were still without the injured Robbie Brady (£5.5m), Ben Gibson (£4.0m) and Nick Pope (£4.5m).
With only one pre-season game remaining before Gameweek 1, we are still not much closer to resolving the Burnley goalkeeper situation.
With Pope sidelined, Tom Heaton and Joe Hart (both £4.5m) were each handed 45 minutes against Nice.
The rumours surrounding Heaton’s long-mooted move to Aston Villa intensified on Wednesday, however, and the 33-
With Pope’s injury situation not thought to be too serious but ultimately still unclear, Hart may well be on standby to line up between the posts in Gameweek 1 – as happened 12 months ago.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Heaton (Hart 46′), Bardsley (Lowton 75), Long (Tarkowski 46′), Mee (Dunne 69′), Pieters (Taylor 75′), Lennon (Rodriguez 69′), Westwood (Cork 69′), Hendrick, Gudmundsson (McNeil 46′), Wood (Wells 83′), Barnes.
Hibernian 1-3 Newcastle United
- Goals: Joelinton (£6.0m), Sean Longstaff (£5.0m), Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m)
- Assists: Javier Manquillo (£4.5m), Joelinton, Rolando Aarons
Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) handed Newcastle United an injury scare in Tuesday night’s pre-season friendly in Leith.
Ritchie limped from the field after just 11 minutes of the Magpies’ 3-1 win over Hibs, having previously dropped to the ground with no opponent around him.
Steve Bruce said after full-time:
We hope it’s not serious. That’s the awful thing tonight because we’re a bit shy in that area. He’ll have a scan in the next 48 hours and hopefully, it’s not too bad.
He’s nicked a hamstring. Whether it’s a strain or how serious it is, we do not know. But for him to come off is not a good sign.
The Evening Chronicle reported on Wednesday that the injury isn’t as serious as first feared, although this hasn’t yet been verified by the club.
The 3-5-2/5-3-2 Continues
Ritchie was again occupying the same position as he did last season, as the left-sided wing-back in a 3-5-2/5-3-2.
Rolando Aarons – yet to be priced up by FPL – was the man given the nod to replace Ritchie in that role and crossed for Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) to head in United’s third goal of the evening.
United’s midfield three was made up of budget FPL options Isaac Hayden (£4.5m), Sean Longstaff (£5.0m) and Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m) and there was a sense that, the goalkeeper aside, this was about as strong a starting XI that Newcastle could possibly put out at present, accounting for injuries.
Joelinton (£6.0m) made his full Magpies debut and was joined up front for the second game running by an ‘out of position’ Miguel Almiron (£6.0m).
Almiron has not quite convinced in front of goal in his time on Tyneside and he is yet to find the back of the net for the Magpies either in a competitive match or a friendly, having missed from the spot in the 2-1 defeat to Preston on Saturday.
Against Hibs, the Paraguay international again missed a couple of excellent opportunities as his barren run continued.
Almiron otherwise linked up well with Joelinton, who was arguably the pick of United’s players with his physical hold-up play and promising movement.
The Brazilian striker got off the mark for Newcastle when converting Javier Manquillo‘s (£4.5m) cross from close range and then claimed a Fantasy assist when his blocked shot fell to Longstaff, who fired in from the edge of the box.
Bruce said of his new strike partnership:
All strikers want to score, let’s hope this is one of many. He is up
and running, you can see the huge appetite in the boy (Joelinton).
They’re a threat and they’ve already enjoyed playing with each other, you can see that straight away. They will be a threat to anybody. They
both canrun and they complement each other.
They could be a little bit more clinical but overall I was very, very pleased with the performance of the two of them.
Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) missed his second successive Newcastle game but Bruce poured cold water on the rumours circulating that the Slovakian wanted a move away from Tyneside.
Speaking after the match, Bruce said:
Dubravka is fine. He’s at home. It was always our aim to give the two other lads 90 minutes. Martin will be in goal
He is our number one goalkeeper and will remain so. The stuff that’s circulating about him is not true, there’s nothing sinister going on at all.
Newcastle United XI (5-3-2): Darlow, Manquillo (Sterry 77), Lascelles, Dummett (Clark 71), Schar (Fernandez 77), Ritchie (Aarons 11), Hayden, Shelvey (M Longstaff 77), S.Longstaff (Ki 60), Almiron (Murphy 69), Joelinton (Muto 69).
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