Man United 2-2 Southampton
- Goals: Marcus Rashford (£9.0m), Anthony Martial (£8.3m) | Stuart Armstrong (£5.2m), Michael Obafemi (£4.9m)
- Assists: Martial, Bruno Fernandes (£9.0m) | Nathan Redmond (£6.2m), Jan Bednarek (£4.4m)
- Bonus Points: Martial x3, Bednarek x2, Rashford x1
Bruno Fernandes (£9.0m) left his horde of Gameweek 35+ supporters wanting more as Manchester United drew 2-2 with Southampton on Monday night.
Crucially, he was outscored by both Anthony Martial (£8.3m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.0m) on a rare off-night for the Portuguese international.
Grabbing an assist for United’s second goal of the evening, Fernandes did manage to ensure his run of games without a blank extended to four but there was much less to admire as usual.
Since arriving in the Premier League, Manchester United’s number 18 has been a shot machine, registering 16 efforts on goal between Gameweeks 30+ and 34+, the joint-third best of any midfielder.
However, across his 83-minute outing against Southampton, Fernandes was unable to shoot even once, while no penalties for his team left the man shorter of points-scoring avenues than usual.
With attention turning to Manchester City and Chelsea midfielders in Gameweek 36+, some even considering the Free Hit chip, Fantasy managers will want to know whether or not they need to keep a slot for Fernandes, who faces an admittedly porous Crystal Palace defence on Thursday.
It must be said that the Portuguese international did look both fatigued and laboured against Southampton, giving away possession in key moments and failing to find his usual insightful delivery.
It probably did not help matters than Paul Pogba (£8.3m) had an even worse outing, at fault for Southampton’s first goal and largely responsible for robbing Manchester United of any consistent rhythm in the 62 minutes he was on the pitch.
“We created some chances, some fantastic football sometimes, Anthony made some good chances for himself. But we never got the rhythm in the passing today.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Manchester United have been blessed with a kind fixture schedule in terms of turnaround thus far in Project Restart, although it does appear that the compressed nature of the Premier League’s return is starting to take some sort of toll on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men if this most recent performance is anything to go by.
The fact that the trip to Selhurst Park awaits them on Thursday certainly increases the pressure on their fitness.
But Fernandes owners have to remember that, since Gameweek 30+, only Norwich (15) have conceded more goals than Crystal Palace (13).
And while Fernandes was outscored by Martial and Rashford on Monday night, he has been a more reliable source of points on the road recently.
United’s French centre-forward certainly looked the part once more against Southampton, coming away with a goal and assist, maximum bonus and unlucky not to get more than that.
In the ninth minute, he pickpocketed James Ward-Prowse (£5.7m) in a dangerous area and was denied in a one-on-one with Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) by a strong left-hand by the Saints’ goalkeeper.
In the second half, Martial might have had another assist and goal too. Rashford’s piece of 67th-minute skill on the left-hand side left Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.4m) behind enabling the forward to slide Martial into the dead-ball line. He cut it back to Rashford, only to see Ryan Bertrand (£4.8m) slide in with a brilliant block to deny a certain goal.
Then, in the 80th minute, Martial went on an incredible run down the left, through the middle and past a crowd of Southampton defenders to get through on goal, only to spurn the finish, one he usually would have buried.
Rashford also could have had more than his goal and seven-point return.
Luke Shaw (£5.4m) picked out his pacey run through the middle in the 15th minute, his netted effort ruled out for offside.
Rashford then got through in the 52nd minute after Fernandes’ threaded ball only to see Jan Bednarek (£4.4m) block his goal-bound effort.
Three minutes later, Fernandes’ chipped pass reached Rashford despite a Walker-Peters handball, who tried a powerful knuckle-ball effort from distance, rippling the side-netting in what would have been a wonderful goal.
However, while Martial and Rashford looked more explosive than Fernandes on Monday night, the disadvantage both of them have against the Portuguese international is their away form.
Since the Premier League came back, Martial has double-figure hauls in every home match, recording 16 points per game at Old Trafford. But across his three on the road, his average stands at 3.7 points per game.
Rashford has also returned in every Project Restart home match so far (7.3 points per game) but is yet to do anything but blank on the road since Gameweek 30+.
By comparison, Fernandes has scored in every road trip in that time, averaging 12.7 points per game in such fixtures.
Fantasy managers may also be tempted to look at the Manchester United defence for Gameweek 36+. While Crystal Palace’s poor goal-scoring fortunes at home are well-documented this season, the Red Devils backline did suffer some problems against Southampton.
Not only were some of their weaknesses exposed, Solskjaer potentially has a staffing problem at left-back for the trip to Selhurst Park.
Shaw rolled his ankle in the second half, replaced in the 74th minute by Brandon Williams (£3.9m), but the youngster ended up walking off with a nasty gash to the head in stoppage time. Nemanja Matić (£4.8m) was forced to deputise in the left-back position for the closing stages, so it will be interesting to see who claims the spot at Selhurst Park and whether or not that affects Manchester United’s defensive credentials.
For the final moments of the game, in which Michael Obafemi (£4.9m) struck the dramatic equaliser, the Red Devils were reduced to 10 men, because Williams left the field after the three allocated substitute windows had been used.
“He got a cut above his eye. We’ll have to [wait and see]. I’ve not been to see him yet. He’s with the medical staff. Yeah (it was bad luck to lose him) but that’s how it is. We defended well until that corner. Always disappointing to get that in the 96th minute but that’s football. I know the feeling the other way around.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
However, Southampton still caused them plenty of problems all evening.
Stuart Armstrong (£5.2m) threatened in the early stages, breaking away from Pogba in the 10th minute and forcing a sprawling save out of David de Gea (£5.3m) before scoring a minute later.
It was Pogba who lost possession in the defensive third under pressure from Danny Ings (£7.4m), allowing Nathan Redmond (£6.2m) to get in behind Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) and feed an unmarked Armstrong at the back post. While he was not the only one at fault for this goal, it was interesting to see the Manchester Evening News claim the Gameweek 36+ trip to Crystal Palace could be an ideal time to rest Wan-Bissaka, who was below par on Monday night, picking up a yellow card in the process.
The Southampton wingers combined again in the 48th minute when Armstrong scythed through the middle and laid off to Redmond who drove wide of the left-hand post.
The former Norwich man then went close in the 85th minute, cutting inside from the flanks past Matić, curling an effort at de Gea, who tipped over flamboyantly.
Interestingly, Ings played a rather peripheral role in this Southampton display, especially compared to those stationed in the wide-midfield roles. Since the restart, he has been less effective against the bigger clubs, blanking against Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal but scoring in meetings with Norwich, Watford and Everton. Ings faces Brighton, Bournemouth and Sheffield United between now and the end of the season.
Manchester United XI: De Gea; Shaw (B Williams 75′), Maguire, Lindelöf, Wan-Bissaka; Matić, Pogba (Fred 63′); Rashford, B Fernandes (McTominay 84′), Greenwood (D James 84′); Martial.
Southampton XI: McCarthy; Bertrand, Bednarek, J Stephens, Walker-Peters; Redmond, Romeu (Obafemi 87′), Ward-Prowse, Armstrong (Smallbone 70′); Ings, Adams (S Long 64′).
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