Manchester United 3-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Goals: Andreas Pereira (£5.0m), Davy Propper (£5.0m) own-goal, Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) | Lewis Dunk (£4.6m)
- Assists: Anthony Martial (£7.7m) x2, Scott McTominay (£5.1m) | Pascal Gross (£6.4m)
- Bonus: Mathew Ryan (£4.7m) x3, Martial x2, Pereira x1
Swashbuckling at Carrow Road a fortnight ago, feeble at the Vitality Stadium in Gameweek 11: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United side are a Jekyll-and-Hyde prospect at present.
Such unpredictably is not ideal for us Fantasy managers given how valued a commodity consistency is in this rollercoaster season, although the relative cut-price availability of the likes of Daniel James (£6.1m) does perhaps allow for a stinker or two along the way.
While the defeat to Bournemouth proved that United are still capable of turning in a dismal display on any given weekend, there is little question that Anthony Martial (£7.7m) makes this current incarnation of the Red Devils a better side when he is available.
The injury-proneness and occasional body language issues are obvious deterrents to Martial from a Fantasy perspective but an ‘out of position’ FPL midfielder who averages over 6.1 points per start in 2019/20 and who is still available for less than £8.0m does merit interest.
The four ‘big chances’ he received against Norwich in Gameweek 10 and the poacher’s goal he scored against Chelsea on the opening weekend were encouraging regarding his own goal threat.
Sunday’s win over Brighton was more Martial the link-up man, with the Frenchman turning creator to supply two assists and bank his first double-digit haul of the campaign.
Pulling wide and dropping deep, Martial’s movement and vision certainly aid the prospects of James, Andreas Pereira (£5.0m) and especially Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) behind him.
Martial teed up the latter two for United’s first and third goals at Old Trafford, going on to create more chances than anyone on show.
What the bare ‘key pass’ statistics don’t reflect, of course, is how the Frenchman’s off-the-ball work leads to chances in itself.
There was one instance in the first half where Rashford cut in off the left flank to test Mathew Ryan (£4.7m) with a low shot, with the opportunity owing much to Martial’s decoy diagonal run that drew Lewis Dunk (£4.6m) away and created space for the England winger to drive into.
Solskjaer said of the France international after full-time:
You can talk about the goals we score but also the link-up play – Anthony’s work through the middle gives Marcus, Dan and Andreas space to run into. I thought Anthony was excellent today.
Martial later teed up Rashford for a gilt-edged chance in the 89th minute, which was one of several spurned by the Englishman.
Being farmed out to the wing can sometimes be to the detriment of a Fantasy asset (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), perhaps) but in Rashford’s case, it is seemingly to his advantage.
In the six Premier League matches that Martial has started for United this season, no FPL forward has had more attempts on goal than Rashford.
Solskjaer said recently that Rashford is much happier when facing the goal rather than being the focal point of the United attack and he certainly looks more of a threat than he did in a grim six-week period as a striker, the nadir of which was perhaps his display at St James’ Park in October.
Were it not for some profligate finishing against Brighton, Rashford would maybe have registered his own double-digit haul on Sunday.
Not only did the England international spurn the aforementioned chance that Martial set up but he also fluffed a golden opportunity carved out by James 20 minutes beforehand, somehow skewing a shot wide from six yards with the goal gaping.
Rashford also tested Ryan from a narrow angle after a Davy Propper-deceiving (£5.0m) piece of trickery with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Solskjaer said of Rashford after full-time:
You know when you’re annoyed but still smiling, you know you’ve enjoyed your day. You can see he’s enjoyed himself out there and he’s unhappy that he didn’t get more goals and assists.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be a defender playing against them when they keep on running like this.
The United boss also reserved praise for James, who produced one of his best displays of the season.
He’s had a great impact both on and off the pitch, behind the scenes and on the training field. His attitude, the way he looks after himself and the way he is humble, does his work, and when he’s on the pitch he produces. He’s had a great impact and let’s hope he continues.
While James did spurn a great chance carved out by Rashford late on, his move to the right flank following Martial’s return does mean that his goal threat is perhaps minimal, given that he is unable to cut in and shoot on his favoured right foot.
That was, indeed, his only goal attempt of the match and his first shot in the box since Gameweek 8.
Pereira, starting his ninth league game in a row, and the ever-present Scott McTominay (£5.1m) furthered their budget ‘fifth midfielder’ appeal with attacking returns, although Pereira did have a considerable deflection off Dale Stephens (£4.5m) to thank in order to break his duck for the campaign.
McTominay has posed an aerial threat at set plays all season and it was the Scotland international who claimed the assist for Propper’s own-goal on 18 minutes; that was his fourth attacking return of 2019/20 and he is returning more points per million spent (9.2) than any other FPL midfielder at present.
McTominay picked up an injury in the second half, with his manager later saying:
He rolled over on his ankle so it looked sore. I’m not a doctor, but it looked like a painful one.
There was to again be no clean sheet for the Red Devils, with their barren run now stretching back seven games – only three other sides are without a shut-out in that time.
With Ashley Young suspended and Luke Shaw (both £5.4m) injured, there was a first league start for budget FPL option Brandon Williams (£4.0m) at left-back.
Performing ably in defence and almost grabbing a goal late on, Williams’ display certainly caught the eye – although both of his positional rivals will likely be back after the international break and it remains to be seen if he can offer FPL managers yet another budget defensive option in this season of bargain-bin gems at the back.
Solskjaer said of Williams:
He was excellent. He could’ve had a goal, he could’ve had an assist, and he defended fantastically. I’m very pleased for the boy, he’s had a great month.
He’s done nothing wrong since he’s come in and making it hard for me, definitely. He’s really, really impressed me, I have to say. He’s making it hard to leave him out.
While United assets may be tempting Fantasy managers in the coming weeks and months, interest in Brighton players is probably likely to remain cool for now.
The Seagulls are bottom of our Season Ticker over the next three Gameweeks, with the visit of Leicester City preceding trips to Liverpool and Arsenal.
Albion were very much second-best at Old Trafford, with Leandro Trossard (£5.8m) having little joy on his first start since August and being withdrawn just before the hour-mark.
Neal Maupay (£6.1m) was inches away from connecting with a Pascal Gross (£6.4m) knock-down but the former Brentford striker was otherwise starved of service and failed to touch the ball once in the United box, which summed up the visitors’ lack of threat from open play.
A Lewis Dunk (£4.6m) header from a Gross corner halved the deficit at 2-1 but Albion were well-beaten in the end – no shame, of course, given the respective costs of each squad.
Graham Potter said after full-time:
We’re disappointed; Manchester United were the better team and I suppose the only crumb of comfort we have is that we got our goal to make it 2-1, and if we had kept it like that a bit longer, maybe we could have snatched something.
But we weren’t good enough to stay in the game, and overall I don’t think we deserved anything. We will get better for the experience and move on.
It’s a bit of lesson for us playing against that type of quality. We had a decent group of matches before this one, so we’ll have to dust ourselves down now and be ready for the next match against Leicester.
With Adam Webster (£4.4m) already sidelined because of an ankle injury, Brighton have lost another centre-half ahead of Gameweek 13 as Dunk collected his fifth yellow card of the season at Old Trafford.
That will be welcome news to owners of Jamie Vardy (£9.6m) and co, with the Foxes visiting the Amex straight after the November international break.
The fact that Ryan was kept very busy at Old Trafford – the Australian walked away with maximum bonus after making nine saves – will also encourage those who own Leicester’s attacking assets.
Albion may also have concerns over striker Aaron Connolly (£4.7m), who was hooked at half-time after complaining of groin pain and who has since withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland national squad.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Williams (Rojo 90′); Fred, McTominay; James, Pereira (Lingard 70′), Rashford (Greenwood 90′); Martial.
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-4-2): Ryan; Montoya (March 46′), Dunk, Duffy, Burn; Alzate, Propper, Stephens, Trossard (Gross 59′); Maupay, Connolly (Murray 46′).
GAMEWEEK 12 – FPL MATCH REPORTS
- Norwich City 0-2 Watford
- Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Burnley 3-0 West Ham United
- Newcastle United 2-1 Bournemouth
- Southampton 1-2 Everton
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Everton
- Leicester City 2-0 Arsenal
- Manchester United 3-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Wolves 2-1 Aston Villa
- Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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