Manchester City 1-2 Manchester United
Goals: Nicolas Otamendi (£5.0m) | Marcus Rashford (£8.9m), Anthony Martial (£7.6m)
Assists: Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) | Daniel James (£6.1m)
Bonus Points: Rashford x3 Martial x2 Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) x1
Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) became the third player to hit the hundred-point mark in Fantasy Premier League this season as he helped steer Manchester United to a deserved derby day victory.
The forward joined Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) and Sadio Mane (£12.3m) at the top of the FPL tree courtesy of the opening goal and the maximum bonus point award from the visitors’ impressive 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.
Rashford earned and converted a penalty awarded, belatedly, by VAR following a foul by Bernardo Silva (£7.9m).
That made it five goals and two assists from his last five starts for the England international, a run that has added half a million managers to his cause, prompted a £0.3m rise in value and put him at the top of the list for Gameweek 17 transfers-in.
Rashford brought in nine points for his 20.5% ownership against Manchester City and, on another day, could have treated them to a hat-trick.
He hit the bar with one long-range effort and missed a big chance when put through by one of United’s many dazzlingly speedy counter-attacks.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side broke fast and often on City throughout a pulsating derby, with the pace of Rashford, Anthony Martial (£7.6m), Daniel James (£6.1m) and Jesse Lingard (£6.3m) proving far too much for the hosts’ fragile backline.
Indeed, the personnel at Solskjaer’s disposal make United most effective on the counter, which is a major reason why they’ve taken points from the ‘big’ teams – Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal and even Liverpool – while struggling to break down opponents who sit deeper and allow them more measured possession.
That should be borne in mind by Fantasy managers eager to tap into a United side unbeaten in five matches (and with 12 goals to their name over that period) ahead of an excellent six-fixture schedule through to Gameweek 22.
The Red Devils will host Everton, Newcastle and Norwich and travel to Watford, Burnley and Arsenal. All six look winnable, but it is the supposedly toughest test of that run – a Gameweek 21 trip to the Emirates – that will probably offer them the best chance to showcase their counter-punching skills.
Those attributes were there in abundance against City, who dominated possession (71%) and attempts (22-11), but had only five shots on target to United’s seven.
The visitors doubled their lead from another sweeping raid forward when Martial, set up by James, caught out Ederson (£6.0m) with a near-post shot.
The Brazilian keeper wasn’t the only one surprised by Martial – nearly 200,000 managers had sold him on the back of two straight blanks and an injury that had left Solskjaer suggesting the Frenchman was only likely to make an appearance from the bench, only for him to play 71 minutes and produce a second double-digit haul from his last four starts.
The 2-0 scoreline certainly didn’t flatter United – Ederson was by far the busier keeper – but they rode their luck to keep it that way until half-time.
City had two penalty appeals for handball waved away by both referee Anthony Taylor and his VAR back-up, while Gabriel Jesus (£9.6m) should probably have scored with a flying header from a pin-point Kevin de Bruyne (£10.3m) cross.
The match was considerably more nervy, and tetchy, after the break, with the mood not lightened by some unpleasant incidents in the crowd that included what has now officially been reported as racist abuse of midfielder Fred (£5.3m).
Back on the pitch, City huffed and puffed and finally forced David de Gea (£5.5m) into a save or two before substitute Nicolas Otamendi (£5.0m), on for the injured John Stones (£5.3m), headed home a Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) corner with five minutes remaining.
The Algerian then fired in a low shot that de Gea did superbly well to push away, but an equaliser would have been harsh on a United defence, which included the returning Luke Shaw (£5.4m) at left-back, that blocked and tackled heroically throughout.
The pick of the bunch was Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m), who earned a bonus point and the praise of his manager for his efforts.
“Aaron, he’s playing against Sterling out there, Mahrez out there, De Bruyne out there and they just couldn’t get past him.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Raheem Sterling (£11.8m) was certainly kept relatively quiet throughout.
His form is at the major end of worrying now. He has blanked in all but one of his last six starts, losing 800,000 owners and £0.2m in value along the way. He’s also started every match since Gameweek 7, marking him out as a big rotation risk heading into the Christmas fixture pile-up.
The winger is currently third for Gameweek 17 transfers-out. More surprisingly, de Bruyne is top.
The Belgian has been City’s driving force in recent weeks, but he doesn’t have the Fantasy points to show for it, with two goals and no assists from his last six starts. Much of that is down to the profligacy of team-mates who he has provided with excellent chances to score, opportunities they have all spurned.
Sales were minor heading into the weekend, but have now picked up as an increasingly fragile City prepare to visit Arsenal and then host Leicester City over the next two Gameweeks.
That second game, in particular, looks fraught with danger for a side struggling to nullify opponents’ counter-attacks, as Pep Guardiola highlighted in his post-match comments.
“We conceded a few chances on the counter. We lost balls, but in general we did what we like to do. We arrive in the final third many times. I like my team. We have to try and improve the amount of counter-attacks we conceded, or the way we play, press, push. Teams defend deep and make a counter-attack.” – Pep Guardiola
Defensively, the side’s reliance on Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) to provide some measure of stability is neither here nor there as the centre-half has been injured for so long now.
But the issue, as yet undiagnosed, suffered by Stones on Saturday is another blow to a backline that might have to rely on Fernandinho (£5.2m) and Otamendi to see off the pace of Vardy – a scary prospect for City fans and those Fantasy managers still clinging onto the hope of returns from their defensive assets.
Writing off their players, from a Fantasy perspective at least, is still premature, especially when they’ll face the defensive basket case that is Arsenal next.
But for the first time in a long time, it is United’s stars who are more likely to catch our eye this Christmas, with Rashford in particular offering form, fixtures and great value.
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