Manchester United 3-0 Sheffield United
- Goals: Anthony Martial x3 (£8.0m)
- Assists: Marcus Rashford x2 (£8.9m), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m)
- Bonus Points: Martial x3, Wan-Bissaka x2, Rashford x1
Anthony Martial (£8.0m) blasted all other Manchester United attacking assets out of the water as he scored a hat-trick in Wednesday evening’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United.
There had been a wealth of interest in the Red Devils for Gameweek 31+ as the Blades were set to visit Old Trafford without Dean Henderson (£5.3m), John Egan (£4.6m) and Jack O’Connell (£4.6m) and it turned out that Fantasy managers were right to expect a one-sided affair.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men made light work of the visiting side, carving through the second-string defence with relative ease.
However, where the majority of managers were let down was the captaincy, with nearly 20% of voters in our latest poll handing the armband to Bruno Fernandes (£8.7m).
While the Portuguese international was recording a first blank since his Gameweek 25 debut, he was a little overshadowed as a creative force in the midfield by Paul Pogba (£8.3m), who, himself was making a first league start since Gameweek 7.
The Frenchman was officially deployed in the deeper central midfield pairing with Nemanja Matic (£4.8m) but in a fluid set-up, Pogba pushed forward to sometimes step on Fernandes’ toes.
The latter was still a creative presence in the team but on this occasion, had to share those duties with the man next to him – arguably a factor in his unexpected blank.
That said, Fernandes was perhaps a little unfortunate not to come away with something, as he watched an excellent first-half free-kick from the left batted over by visiting goalkeeper Simon Moore (£4.3m).
Shortly afterwards, Harry Maguire (£5.3m) nodded in one of the midfielder’s corners, only to see it ruled out for a push on Phil Jagielka (£4.1m).
It is no surprise that the options in more advanced positions were the ones to fully capitalise on Sheffield United’s vulnerable defence, namely hat-trick hero Martial and left-forward Marcus Rashford (£8.9m).
While Pogba’s presence limited Fernandes’ monopoly on creativity, there is no doubting that the Manchester United attack is much more powerful with them playing together.
With such excellent service, the man spearheading the front-four was perhaps always destined to mop up the goals.
With favourable fixtures still on the horizon for Manchester United, there is almost certainly going to be interest in Martial, whose game-time was managed in the 79th minute. Brighton, Bournemouth and Aston Villa are the Red Devils next three opponents
Despite the two assists, Rashford owners might have hoped for slightly more from the forward. He had a rather mixed evening, linking up nicely with Martial but squandering a few chances to get on the score-sheet himself, much as he did against Spurs.
The most gilt-edged of those happened in the 12th minute when Martial squared to him from close-range, the England international uncharacteristically spooning the easy opportunity wide. Seven minutes later, Rashford spurned another opportunity, Pogba playing him through with a lovely chipped ball – but the forward could only swing an air-kick at it.
His owners are unlikely to have too many concerns going into Gameweek 32+ though, especially as it’s Brighton up next. Rashford, like Martial, Fernandes and Pogba, was hauled off as part of a quintuple substitution in the 79th minute once the game had been closed out.
That change helped Manchester United see out a clean sheet, their fourth in as many home matches. Those looking to invest at that end of the pitch for the Red Devils could do worse than Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) who assisted one of Martial’s goals. The former Crystal Palace man offered very little going forward when he first joined Solskjaer’s outfit but he is becoming increasingly useful from his right-back position. Between Gameweeks 1 and 25, Wan-Bissaka had assisted only once, but he has now set up two league goals since Gameweek 26.
Sheffield United’s attack continues to offer very little, registering a third successive blank since the Premier League restart at Old Trafford.
Chris Wilder made some changes to the team for this encounter, handing rare starts to Lys Mousset (£4.5m) and David McGoldrick (£5.4m), but neither was able to get into the game. The former was replaced by Oli McBurnie (£5.7m) at half-time, who had more of a sniff in the second half but could not trouble David De Gea (£5.3m) to any great extent.
As Wilder strives to find a solution to the problems going forward, Fantasy managers will increasingly target the Blades for clean sheet fodder in the remaining Gameweeks.
We recently documented the improvements made to Spurs’ defence, so owners of Serge Aurier (£4.9m) may be particularly encouraged to see a trip to Sheffield United next on his schedule.
Meanwhile, Burnley and Wolves have been offering defensive options for the remainder of 2019/20, namely Nick Pope (£4.9m), Matt Doherty (£6.4m) and Romain Saïss (£4.6m), who face Sheffield United in Gameweeks 33+ and 34+ respectively.
Manchester United XI: De Gea; Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Matic, Pogba (McTominay 80’); Rashford (D James 80’), B Fernandes (A Pereira 80’), Greenwood (Mata 80’); Martial (Ighalo 80’).
Sheffield United XI: Moore; Robinson, Jagielka, Basham; Stevens, Fleck, Norwood (Berge 46’), Lundstram, Baldock; McGoldrick (Zivkovic 64’), Mousset (McBurnie 46’).
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 31+
- Leicester City 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 West Ham United
- Manchester United 3-0 Sheffield United
- Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa
- Norwich City 0-1 Everton
- Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
- Liverpool 4-0 Crystal Palace
- Burnley 1-0 Watford
- Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
- Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City
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