Manchester United 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) x3, Conor Coady (£5.0m) x2, Rui Patricio (£5.1m) x1
New recruit Bruno Fernandes (£8.0m) couldn’t inspire Manchester United to much more than the humdrum in a drab draw with Wolves.
The major signing of the January transfer window adopted something akin to a shoot on sight policy on his debut, leading the way for attempts on goal at Old Trafford.
But visiting keeper Rui Patricio (£5.1m) was never really called on to make anything more than a regulation save from his fellow countryman, or any other United player, while David de Gea (£5.4m) was similarly untroubled at the other end.
Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer picked an attacking line-up, starting Juan Mata (£6.2m) in an advanced role for the third time in four Gameweeks.
The Spaniard failed to threaten, however, while Anthony Martial (£7.9m) blanked for the third straight game and didn’t muster a single attempt while he was about it.
The best chance of the match, for United at least, came at the end, when substitute Diogo Dalot (£4.9m) missed with a close-range header.
On the flip side, it was at least a third clean sheet in six matches for United, although those hoping for a fourth straight start for bargain buy Brandon Williams (£4.1m) were instead treated to the return of Luke Shaw (£5.4m) at left-back.
Overall, Fantasy interest in their players is unlikely to have been rekindled by this lacklustre performance and their schedule, with trips to Chelsea and Spurs and a visit from Manchester City over the next five Gameweeks, doesn’t suggest much will change in the short term.
The one star bucking that trend is Fernandes, who attracted plenty of Fantasy business for the match, with 97,885 bringing him in, and is also in the top five for Gameweek 26 purchases.
Solskjaer was keen to praise him post-match, saying:
Bruno is a top player. He shows qualities that we’re going to enjoy watching later on. He attempted five shots, hit the target a few times, went close a few times and showed some great vision. When he gets to know his players, we’ve got a top player there.
But the manager’s other comments included a claim that Wolves are ‘hard to break down’, despite Saturday’s clean sheet being their first since Gameweek 15 and only their second in 17 league matches.
Such a statement won’t have endeared him to an increasingly sceptical fan base which, when added to the toxic relationship the supporters already have with the club’s owners and executives, doesn’t exactly bode well for United’s immediate prospects.
All of that is probably enough to persuade most Fantasy managers to give most Old Trafford assets a wide berth.
The case for Wolves players is a touch stronger.
A couple of new faces were added in January to freshen up an over-worked squad, with one of them, winger Daniel Podence (£5.5m), given a 14-minute cameo from the bench.
Attempts and chances created were shared among a range of their players on Saturday evening, with Joao Moutinho (£5.4m) the pick of the creative bunch and the 21%-owned Adama Traore (£5.8m) a bustling threat throughout.
Traore was in the wars on Saturday, picking up shoulder and calf injuries, and Santo said:
I know he’s in a lot of pain. He dislocated his shoulder and Matt (Perry), the doctor, managed to put it back again.
He had another kick in the end, so he’s on ice now. But I think it’s nothing serious.
It [the shoulder dislocation] happened before, Tottenham. He’s a strong boy. He’ll be OK, hopefully.
In keeping with the match as a whole, the visitors lacked a cutting edge, with Diogo Jota (£6.1m) unable to stay on his feet to capitalise on his fine run into the area and fellow striker Raul Jimenez (£7.7m) kept to just one shot on target, which de Gea saved with little fuss.
The return of Willy Boly (£4.7m) at centre-half added some much-needed stability at the back (four of Wolves’ five clean sheets have been with him in the side) and further defensive returns could be on the cards as Wolves’ final 13 opponents this season will include seven of the current bottom eight in the league.
Not that coach Nuno Espirito Santo claims to be bothered by such things:
We go toe-to-toe against any opponent, we don’t measure ourselves against whether we are playing the ‘big teams’ or not, it’s about how we develop our ideas on the pitch. Now we’re just going to rest and take this break.
The winter break will certainly be welcome for a Wolves side with more than 40 matches under their belt already this season, and it should also help Fernandes adapt to English football.
Whether he can fire up the increasingly damp squib that is United remains to be seen.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Pereira (Greenwood 72′); Mata (Lingard 87′), Bruno Fernandes, James (Dalot 87′); Martial.
Wolves (3-4-3): Rui Patricio; Coady, Boly, Saiss; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Traore (Podence 77′), Raul Jimenez (Dendoncker 90′), Jota (Neto 70′).
West Ham United 3-3 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Goals: Robert Snodgrass (£5.2m) x2, Issa Diop (£4.4m) | Glenn Murray (£5.4m), Pascal Gross (£6.3m), Angelo Ogbonna (£4.5m) own-goal
- Assists: Snodgrass | Davy Propper (£4.8m)
- Bonus: Snodgrass x3, Gross x2, Propper x1
West Ham twice squandered a two-goal lead against fellow strugglers Brighton to drop into the bottom three.
A goal from Issa Diop (£4.4m) and two from Robert Snodgrass (£5.2m) should have been enough for David Moyes’ side to complete a first win since Gameweek 21, only for a combination of Glenn Murray (£5.4m) and VAR to conspire against them.
Brighton’s first goal was a comical affair involving Lukasz Fabianski (£4.9m) punching the ball into the back of Angelo Ogbonna‘s (£4.5m) head from where it found its way into the net. Replays strongly suggested Murray had impeded the Hammers keeper, but VAR was unconvinced, if it was used at all, and the goal stood.
A terrible mix-up between Diop and Ogbonna gifted the Seagulls their second, Pascal Gross (£6.3m) profiting from the pair’s hesitation to force the ball past the onrushing Fabianski with 15 minutes to play.
And Moyes’ misery was completed four minutes later when VAR overturned referee Michael Oliver’s decision that Murray had handled the ball before converting Davy Propper‘s (£4.8m) cross.
The manager was surprisingly upbeat after the match:
I thought the performance, in the main, was very good. I thought we made a couple of really, really silly mistakes and, because of that, it obviously labels the team because we are a team, but for long periods of the game, our performance was very good. For us to play Liverpool and the effort the players put in in midweek, I thought fatigue played a part in the second half and it had an impact on it.
Fatigue or not, West Ham should have been home and hosed before Brighton’s late comeback.
Diop scored for the second time in four Gameweeks when he lunged to poke home a Snodgrass free-kick and the Scot then scored twice, with the help of deflections for both of them, as they took control after the break.
Debutant Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) was industrious for the Hammers and he struck up an instant rapport with Mark Noble (£5.0m) as the hosts enjoyed a measure of control in central midfield.
The directness of Michail Antonio (£6.9m) was a threat throughout his time on the pitch – he led the way for attempts and shots on target – and Moyes’ decision to replace him with the more defensive Arthur Masuaku (£4.2m) arguably handed the initiative back to Brighton as the game entered its final stages.
Then again, the Seagulls matched their opponents for shots on target, with six apiece, and had 19 attempts overall to the Hammers’ 12.
Fabianski was the busier of the two keepers, denying Solly March (£4.6m) with a particularly sharp save, but while Brighton displayed attacking enterprise for much of the match, they owed their point to West Ham’s errors.
Not that Brighton manager Graham Potter was having any of that:
Mistakes don’t just happen on their own. Something has to force them to happen. We pushed and pushed. In the second half, the game was played in the opposition half and their keeper has made more saves than ours.
However anyone wants to spin all of that, what is less debatable is that there’s little to tempt Fantasy managers into investment in either side.
Snodgrass has form – he’s scored two goals and provided three assists across his last four full matches – but his upcoming fixtures are anything but alluring.
The Hammers are about to embark on a seven-game run involving three of the top four and trips to both Arsenal and Spurs, while the supposedly easier games will come against Wolves and Southampton.
Brighton’s short-term schedule is kinder as they’ll face Watford and Crystal Palace at home and travel to Sheffield United and Wolves.
But a much tougher six-game run follows that, and they remain so leaky at the back – just one clean sheet since Gameweek 11 – and so goal-shy up top, with Saturday’s tally only the second time in nine matches they’ve scored more than once, that few will be casting more than a cursory glance at their assets.
Potter’s wildly unpredictable team selections – Neal Maupay (£5.9m) was an unused substituted yesterday – only dents Albion’s appeal further.
West Ham United XI (4-1-4-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice; Snodgrass (Lanzini 85′), Noble, Soucek (Fornals 85′), Antonio (Masuaku 75′); Haller.
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Montoya (Schelotto 72′), Dunk, Webster, Bernardo; Propper, Stephens; Gross, Mooy (March 72′), Trossard; Murray.
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