Manchester United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Goals: Bruno Fernandes (£10.7m)
- Assists: Juan Mata (£5.9m)
- Bonus: Fernandes x3, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) x2, Victor Lindelof (£4.9m) x1
A twice-taken Bruno Fernandes (£10.7m) penalty was just enough for Manchester United to see off a spirited, if limited, West Brom side.
It was the Red Devils’ first league win at Old Trafford this season, prompting a relief-heavy comment from manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:
We needed that win at home. It’s never comfortable against players of this quality.
FERNANDES TO THE FORE
Over-hyping the opposition continues to be a Solskjaer trait because the Baggies were organised and committed, but that was generally where their qualities ended.
Then again, there wasn’t much of the good stuff on display from the home side either, with midfielder Fernandes the best of an average lot on the night.
That was the most pleasing Fantasy Premier League (FPL) aspect of the match as the 34.5%-owned midfielder was by far the most popular player on the pitch.
His ownership had been boosted by a Gameweek-leading one million-plus new owners for the West Brom encounter and yet another penalty – seven of his 14 goals for the club have come from the spot – meant he produced a second straight double-digit return for his managers old and new.
He did require a re-take to score it, however, when his first attempt was saved by the excellent Sam Johnstone (£4.5m), albeit from well off his goal-line.
But the goal was just reward for an influential performance from Fernandes.
He created two of the game’s three big chances, which forced fine saves by Johnstone from Anthony Martial (£8.7m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) respectively, and scored from the other one.
Fernandes’ form, and United’s fixtures, are tempting more managers into the midfielder’s fold – he’s currently one of the most popular purchases for Gameweek 10.
And a pleasant mix of matches over the next six Gameweeks, with four games away and the two at home against more progressive opposition in Manchester City and Leeds, should better suit United’s counter-attacking strengths.
NOT SO FORWARD THINKING
Penalties have nourished Fernandes owners through thin times. There’s not a lot of sustenance available for the team’s other attacking options.
On another day and against a rather less inspired keeper, both Martial and Rashford might have found the net.
But the former has had a truly terrible season so far, with more red cards than goals, while Rashford’s last four starts – which have included three stints up front – have produced just one assist.
Solskjaer has handed four starts out of the last five to Juan Mata (£5.9m) and it was the veteran’s cross that drew the handball for Saturday’s penalty award.
The Spaniard now has two assists from those starts, but his lack of pace does the side few favours and his freer role seems to compromise Fernandes’ ability to get forward at times.
Many United fans would rather see the more dynamic Donny van de Beek (£6.7m) given a chance in Mata’s place, a move that the conservative Solskjaer is yet to make, and might not even have contemplated.
The manager did provide an update on another midfielder – Paul Pogba (£7.7m):
Paul got a knock in the last game (for France) and he started feeling it yesterday after the session. Well, he felt it before the session, but he couldn’t carry on. Hopefully, he’ll be okay for Tuesday.
But the only attacking game in town at the moment remains Fernandes. United have had 109 attempts so far this season and just over a fifth (24) have come solely from him.
At least the team’s backline is starting to produce points, with two clean sheets (and just two goals conceded) over the last four Gameweeks.
The side’s most popular defender, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m and 9.2%), brought in two bonus points, and eight overall, while Alex Telles (£5.5m) marked his league debut with a solid return for his 1.2% ownership.
United’s schedule is attractive enough to suggest more clean sheets can be kept for the foreseeable future.
But the prospect of attacking returns from the flanks remains remote.
United’s full-backs – including the injured Luke Shaw (£4.8m) – have created nine chances between them this season.
That’s a total bettered by six defenders on their own, while West Ham’s Ryan Fredericks (£4.3m) can match that tally from just three appearances.
Until Solskjaer risks pushing his wide men further forward, Harry Maguire (£5.4m) is probably the better bet as a consistent attacking threat.
The centre-half’s 13 attempts this season is joint-top among defenders.
As for the Baggies, manager Slaven Bilic was understandably bitter about VAR overturning a penalty award when Fernandes tackled Conor Gallagher (£5.5m):
I’m very disappointed with the result and the decisions from the referee.
But from a Fantasy perspective, the less said about a team with just six goals and one clean sheet from nine games, the better.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Matic, Fred (McTominay 84); Mata (Cavani 62), Fernandes, Rashford (van de Beek 79); Martial.
West Bromwich Albion XI (5-4-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Bartley, Ivanovic (Krovinovic 79), Ajayi, Townsend; Gallagher, Sawyers, Diangana (Robson-Kanu 62), Pereira; Grant (Robinson 62).
Lessons Learned from FPL Gameweek 9
- Newcastle United 0-2 Chelsea
- Aston Villa 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester City
- Manchester United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Fulham 2-3 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-1 West Ham United
- Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal
- Liverpool 3-0 Leicester City
- Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace
- Wolves 1-1 Southampton
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