Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
- Goals: Mason Greenwood x2 (£4.4m), Marcus Rashford (£9.1m), Anthony Martial (£8.2m), Bruno Fernandes (£8.8m) | Junior Stanislas (£5.8m), Joshua King (£6.1m)
- Assists: B Fernandes x2, Martial x2, Nemanja Matić (£4.8m) | J King
- Bonus Points: Greenwood x3, B Fernandes x2, Martial x1
It was the offensive arm of the Manchester United triple-up that emerged victorious from Saturday’s big win over Bournemouth as they produced 19 shots, 10 on target and scored five times.
Amid interest at both ends of the field for Gameweek 33+, the Red Devils defensive assets largely let their owners down while Fantasy managers are continually presented with a wealth of in-form midfielders and forwards to choose from. That is welcome news with Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham their next four opponents.
Bruno Fernandes (£8.8m) appears to have firmly reclaimed his position as the chief Manchester United attacker, adjusting to life alongside Paul Pogba (£8.3m) with aplomb. Following that Gameweek 31+ blank against Sheffield United, in which the Portuguese midfielder was overshadowed by Pogba’s creative force in the midfield, Fernandes has answered any critics with two blistering double-digit hauls, his third and fourth of the 2019/20 season.
“They’re a totally different team to the team we played earlier in the season, I have to give them a lot of credit. They’re very creative now with Fernandes and Pogba in midfield and they’re tough to stop.” – Eddie Howe
It means Fernandes has amassed 80 points in his first nine Premier League matches for Manchester United, averaging 8.9 per game – enough to be in the captain conversation most weeks given his upcoming fixtures.
Such is the range of avenues that he can deliver Fantasy returns from, he was able to register a goal and two assists against Bournemouth despite Marcus Rashford (£9.1m) taking a first-half penalty.
While the spot-kicks are no longer completely under his control, the Portuguese international still retains a strong ranking in the direct free-kick pecking order, dispatching an excellent strike from the edge of the box in the second half.
Outside of that, his creativity appears to have returned to the levels we were previously seeing before Pogba returned to the team. On Saturday afternoon, it was Fernandes who took up the more advanced positions with Pogba playing a less prominent role in his deeper pairing with Nemanja Matić (£4.8m), a complete reverse to what we saw in the Sheffield United game. As a result, he got two assists in the first half, his fourth and fifth of the campaign.
Even more exciting for Fernandes backers moving forward is the fact that he arguably could have come away from this latest outing with more points to his name.
He was put clean through behind the Bournemouth defence in the early exchanges, one-on-one with Aaron Ramsdale (£4.5m), but could only hook his chip over the bar as well as the goalkeeper.
However, it is getting to the point that Fernandes is no longer anything but a so-called ‘shield’ against other active managers, offering the highest effective ownership of any player inside the top 10,000 Fantasy managers for Gameweek 33+.
Therefore, it now appears important to consider combining him with a selection of his attacking colleagues for the remaining weeks with both Anthony Martial (£8.2m) and Mason Greenwood (£4.4m) making especially compelling cases for inclusion.
The Frenchman was certainly more peripheral against Bournemouth than he was in the Sheffield United game but demonstrated once again just how explosive he can be as an out-of-position playing centre-forward for a team now supercharged on creativity.
He curled in a spectacular effort from the edge of the box in the first half, also picking up two Fantasy assists on Saturday. The first was for forcing the handball which led to Rashford’s penalty, the second for picking up the foul which resulted in Fernandes scoring a direct free-kick.
Whether or not Martial features as heavily in the captain debate next time out remains to be seen, considering the disparity between his home and away form.
The out-of-position FPL midfielder has returned in each of his last four at Old Trafford, producing six goals and two assists for a whopping 12.8 points per game. By comparison, Martial’s last four road trips contain three blanks, one goal and an average of 3.8 points per game.
Meanwhile, Greenwood has gone some way to suggesting the same caveat does not apply to him. Fresh from a goal and an assist at Brighton midweek, the young forward bagged a brace against Bournemouth, securing a second double-digit haul in less than a week. All for less than £5.0m.
Greenwood has been on the Fantasy radar nearly all season given his budget price and penchant for goals. In fact, he has 15 of those in all competitions this season, his full campaign as a senior Manchester United professional, which is more than double Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally of six in 2003/04 and two off Wayne Rooney’s the following year. For all of that, it has only since Project Restart that Greenwood has become a genuinely viable option for more than just managers operating a 3-5-2 formation.
That’s because he has now started the last three games in a row, helped by his exceptional, undroppable form. Greenwood scored two excellent goals against Bournemouth, one with his left foot and the other with his right.
However, the most encouraging element of his latest outing is unlikely to be the complete nature of his performance, but the fact that Manchester United sealed up the three points early enough to warrant bringing him off on 74 minutes. As has been previously mentioned, some managers have been put off by Greenwood’s lack of starts in the past, but getting a second-half rest to go with his recent form all but locks in a place on the team-sheet for Gameweek 34+. Manchester United hitting their stride in recent matches, combined with their largely favourable recovery time, is generally good news for Fantasy investment as it caused Solskjaer to name a completely unchanged side for the third match in a row, the first time a Red Devils boss has done that since November 2006.
“(Greenwood) is a fantastic goalscorer. I’ve said it so many times. The moments he chose the goals were important moments for us. Especially the second one. You know he’s got a left-foot to come inside, but defenders have to look out for what he can do on the outside with his right foot too. He’s a very very talented boy. We’ll nurture him and manage him as much as we can and give him more minutes.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Rashford was somewhat left behind by his double-digit scoring colleagues as his solitary attacking return made for just six points. However, owners of the FPL forward could experience the benefits of patience, considering how unlucky he was not to be involved in more goals against Bournemouth.
Not forgetting that he is back in the penalty conversation, Rashford is still involved in direct free-kicks and in the 18th minute, his excellent effort, aiming for the top corner was denied only by an impressive sprawling save from Ramsdale. Then, just after the hour-mark, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) got into the advanced positions he has been taking up of late and played an Alexander-Arnold-esque cross from deep which found Rashford tapping at the back-post. However, the goal was pulled back, for the tightest of offside calls. On another day, both of those efforts might have found the back of the net and stood, which would make for a completely different outlook on Rashford’s credentials for the Aston Villa game.
That said, we do have to clarify that even though Manchester United’s attacking assets were devastatingly brilliant on Saturday afternoon, they were helped by the fact that Bournemouth arrived at Old Trafford with a ravaged defence.
Eddie Howe revealed before the game that Steve Cook (£5.0m), who this week came under fire from his manager for criticising the club publicly had been added to the list of injured centre-backs, alongside Chris Mepham (£4.3m), Jack Simpson (£3.9m) and Simon Francis (£4.4m). That meant left-back Lloyd Kelly (£4.4m), who only made his first-ever Premier League start against Newcastle in Gameweek 32+ was forced to drop into a central defensive role he was not particularly suited to, Diego Rico (£4.2m) returning on the flank.
“He’s injured. There was no direct upset with what (Steve) Cook said, it was probably the way it came across. There was nothing intentional from his side. He is injured, he’s a big player for us, he’s our captain when he’s fit and playing so we’ll miss him badly and Chris Mepham picked up an injury too.” – Eddie Howe
It must be said that as much as Bournemouth defended poorly at Old Trafford, Manchester United were not much better. In fact, this was arguably one of their backline’s worst performances for some time. Harry Maguire (£5.3m) and David de Gea (£5.3m) were both at fault for Bournemouth opening the score, the centre-back nutmegged inside the box by Junior Stanislas (£5.8m) and the goalkeeper beaten at his near post.
That was the first goal Manchester United had conceded at home since January when Jay Rodriguez (£5.7m) netted Burnley’s second in a shock 2-0 win for the Clarets, so perhaps this was just a blip. Obviously, a meeting with Aston Villa in Gameweek 34+ is certainly enough to justify hanging onto a defensive United asset, especially if it is Wan-Bissaka. As already mentioned, he was unfortunate not to come away with a third assist in as many matches and, for anyone who felt he was quieter than usual going forward, it does seem as if part of Howe’s game-plan on Saturday afternoon was to negate Wan-Bissaka’s impact. Stanislas was the main outlet for Bournemouth in the early exchanges, finding some success in committing the former Crystal Palace man to defensive duties for large spells.
Meanwhile, a potential budget opportunity may emerge in Manchester United’s defence in the remaining fixtures of the season, although relies on a few factors. Victor Lindelöf (£5.3m) who has largely been a mainstay under Solskjaer, was taken off with a back problem at half-time. It is worth monitoring this situation as any long-term absence could open the door for the cheaper Eric Bailly (£4.8m) to get some starts in a team with decent clean sheet potential over the next few weeks. However, it is still early days for the Ivorian, who made the worst possible impact a substitute could make after coming on for the second period. Within moments of the restart, his awkward control of a Matić pass back resulted in a handball and penalty, dispatched by Joshua King (£6.1m).
“(Lindelöf) struggled today with his back. Hopefully, he won’t be too bad.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Manchester United XI: De Gea; Shaw, Maguire, Lindelöf (Bailly 46′), Wan-Bissaka; Pogba, Matić (Fred 67′); Rashford (Mata 80′), B Fernandes, Greenwood (D James 75′); Martial (Ighalo 80′).
Bournemouth XI: Ramsdale, Rico, Aké, L Kelly, A Smith (Stacey 77′); Stanislas, L Cook (H Wilson 66′), Lerma, Brooks (Danjuma 46′); J King, Solanke (Billing 66′).
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