Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United
- Goal: Matthew Longstaff (£4.5m)
- Assist: Jetro Willems (£4.5m)
- Bonus: Willems x3, M. Longstaff x2, Martin Dubravka (£5.0m)
A fixture swing for Manchester United beckons after the visit of Liverpool in Gameweek 9 but who’d back their Fantasy assets at present?
The Red Devils sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 10-14, taking on five clubs who are currently ranked tenth or below.
The two remaining teams without a Premier League clean sheet to their names this season immediately follow Jurgen Klopp’s side and, on Sunday’s evidence, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops need all the help they can get.
While poor defeats to Crystal Palace and West Ham were perhaps borderline excusable given how well those two teams are performing at present, this latest loss plumbed new depths.
Solskjaer’s side faced a Newcastle team who had been battered 5-0 by Leicester City a week ago, who sat second-bottom of the table and who had the lowest expected goals tally of any top-flight club this season.
The Red Devils’ failure to create anything of note from open play was alarming, with seven of their 12 chances coming from dead-ball situations.
The visitors’ only clear-cut opportunity saw Harry Maguire (£5.5m) nod an Ashley Young (£5.4m) corner wide from inside the six-yard box but there was precious else to report, with Marcos Rojo‘s (£4.8m) header over from another Young delivery as close as United came to an equaliser.
Marcus Rashford (£8.4m) was left isolated up front but did himself few favours with a sulky display, touching the ball just nine times in the opening 45 minutes and frequently drifting out to the left away from the danger zone.
A last-ditch Fabian Schar (£5.0m) tackle prevented Rashford from tapping in on 70 minutes but that was as close as the England striker came to a chance as he failed to register a single shot on goal.
Solskjaer said of Rashford’s display:
He’s working hard. As I said to the boys at half-time today, you feel for him because he’s running, running and running and he doesn’t get the service.
The first half was very poor, that was the poorest we’ve been because we gave so many sloppy balls away, it seemed like we couldn’t control the ball and we couldn’t find the combinations. Of course, in the second half we dominated but we didn’t create enough.”
With Rashford toiling out wide, the Red Devils had just 16 touches in the Newcastle box – only four teams had fewer in Gameweek 8.
Daniel James (£6.2m) had no joy down the left flank either, so much so that he and Andreas Pereira (£5.0m) swapped wings in a bid to break the stalemate – to little avail.
James has produced four successive blanks now, with his rate of shots worsening to one every 71.8 minutes over that period.
Opposing teams stopping the Wales international from cutting in off the left flank onto his favoured right foot obviously nullifies a lot of his goal threat, something Leicester, West Ham, Arsenal and Newcastle have done quite well over the last month – although Norwich may be more obliging in Gameweek 10.
The return of Paul Pogba (£8.4m) and Anthony Martial (£7.5m) from injury may help United, of course.
Pogba was far from outstanding in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal but was made to look like a world-beater by understudy Fred (£5.3m) on Sunday, while Martial was dovetailing quite nicely with Rashford before his injury in Gameweek 3.
Returning bodies in defence may also help reinforce a backline that hasn’t been too bad on the underlying stats front this season.
Three of United’s first-choice back four were absent through injury or illness yesterday, with Victor Lindelof (£5.4m) joining Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) and Luke Shaw (£5.4m) on the sidelines.
Only three clubs have conceded fewer goals than Solskjaer’s side this season, with no top-flight side allowing fewer big chances.
The Norwegian said of Sunday’s display and the goal they conceded:
We gave them too many counter-attacks, lifted their crowd, you could see they were behind their team, behind Brucey and it was impossible for me to put one or two players where they should have been.
There are players that try to organise it but couldn’t and when that happens, six or seven back in our own box, but we couldn’t defend that ball. There were two attempts to tackle, from Dan and Fred.
Newcastle deserve credit despite their opponents’ performance, with Steve Bruce getting a reaction from his players after the mauling at Leicester.
It was perhaps no surprise that the Magpies looked more comfortable in the 5-4-1/3-4-3 shape that Rafael Benitez favoured in 2018/19.
When Bruce has stuck with that tried-and-tested system, the Magpies have won two, drawn two and lost just one (away at Liverpool), keeping three clean sheets along the way.
In the games he has experimented with a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, Newcastle have lost all three and conceded nine goals.
The promotion of teenager Matthew Longstaff (£4.5m) to the starting XI alongside elder brother Sean (£5.0m) brought a lot of energy to the centre of midfield, something Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m) hadn’t offered much of in the turgid 0-0 draw with Brighton a fortnight ago.
Longstaff is a defensive midfielder by trade but looked a threat against the Red Devils, striking the bar before firing in the winner on his debut in the 71st minute.
Bruce said of the younger Longstaff:
When it fell to him, I thought I’ve seen him drill them in in training but to do it on the big stage…
He’s been a breath of fresh air. He just wants to play football. I thought who’s this ginger kid when we were in China. He’s been good in training.
It didn’t faze him. He enjoyed it. He probably didn’t sleep well last night. He won’t get much sleep again tonight.
It’s quite a story. I’ve been going 20 odd years and not been able to beat Manchester United and he’s done it straight away.
Allan Saint-Maximin‘s (£5.4m) trickery caught the eye but the Magpies’ attacking players are unlikely to be the flavour of the month even when their fixtures turn for the better at the end of October, given their ongoing struggle for goals.
Their budget defensive assets could potentially re-enter our thinking, however, on the proviso that Bruce sticks with the current set-up.
This was a side, after all, that kept 11 clean sheets in 2018/19, a total that only six clubs could better.
Newcastle sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 10-18, meeting only Manchester City of the ‘big six’ along the way.
No side has kept more clean sheets than the Magpies this season, while only four teams have allowed fewer big chances in home matches.
FPL managers will likely baulk at paying £5.0m for Schar but Jetro Willems (£4.5m), with two attacking returns and two clean sheets in four starts, is a name to monitor – the return of Matt Ritchie (£5.3m) could ruin that idea, of course.
Newcastle United XI (5-4-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Clark, Willems; Saint-Maximin (Atsu 82′), M Longstaff, S Longstaff, Almiron; Joelinton (Carroll 54′).
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dalot (Rojo 61′), Tuanzebe, Maguire, Young; Fred, McTominay; Pereira, Mata (Greenwood 65′), James; Rashford.
Lessons learned from Gameweek 8
- Brighton 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Burnley 1-0 Everton
- Liverpool 2-1 Leicester City
- Norwich City 1-5 Aston Villa
- Watford 0-0 Sheffield United
- West Ham United 1-2 Crystal Palace
- Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth
- Manchester City 0-2 Wolves
- Southampton 1-4 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United
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