Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle United
- Goals: Marcus Rashford (£9.6m), Daniel James (£6.2m), Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) | Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.1m)
- Assists: Harry Maguire, Fernandes, Rashford
- Bonus: Fernandes x3, Rashford x2, James x1
SPOT THE HAUL
Alex Ferguson-era Manchester United were the embodiment of coming up with the goods even when not playing particularly well, a trait that Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) shares with those serial winners.
Frustrated in the opening 45 minutes against Newcastle and picking up a booking for a set-to with Isaac Hayden (£4.6m), Fernandes predictably went on to bag a double-digit haul – his tenth of the season – with an assist for Daniel James’ (£6.2m) goal and a 74th-minute penalty.
That took the Portuguese playmaker past the 300-point mark in FPL since his debut just over a year ago.
It’s usually at this point that someone points out his heavy reliance on spot-kicks, which is undeniably true: seven of his 15 goals this season have come from 12 yards.
Stripping away penalties from his 10 league appearances this calendar year, Fernandes has had just one big chance and averages less than one shot in the box per appearance.
But the penalties aren’t likely to evaporate: United have been in the top two for spot-kick awards in each of the last three seasons, with the speed and trickery of Marcus Rashford (£9.6m) et al always like to attract rash penalty-box challenges.
And then, of course, Fernandes is capable of scoring from those quarter-chances that Opta doesn’t deem ‘big’ – note his strikes against Everton and West Brom in the last fortnight.
So widely owned, his effective ownership in the top 10k and perhaps among all active managers will once again be in excess of 100% in Double Gameweek 26.
Given the doubts that linger about the form of Spurs assets, it’s no surprise that Fernandes is gaining more votes by the day in our captain poll: initially drawing less than 10% of the vote, he is now up to 15.6%.
While United’s cross-city rivals continue to look watertight at the back, the Red Devils are anything but.
Questions continue to be asked about the partnership between Harry Maguire (£5.5m) and Victor Lindelof (£4.8m), in particular. Cut apart by Everton in Gameweek 23 and then bullied by Mbaye Diagne (£6.0m) last weekend, the pair again looked suspect against a limited Newcastle attack missing the injured Callum Wilson (£6.6m).
Allan Saint-Maximin‘s (£5.1m) 35th-minute leveller was a deserved one for the Magpies and meant that the Red Devils’ backline has now been breached by all five of the clubs sitting 16th or below in the Premier League table.
Eight clean sheets for United in 2020/21 isn’t the worst return but it’s seven fewer than City have managed, and only eight top-flight sides have conceded more goals.
It’s the inability to keep clean sheets against the also-rans that is most frustrating for Fantasy managers who favour fixtures over form; shut-outs have instead arrived in games against City, Liverpool and Chelsea, perhaps when Solskjaer has shown less attacking ambition and left his ropey-looking stoppers less exposed.
Luke Shaw (£5.1m) is at least compensating with attacking threat and semi-regular returns.
Missing from the Manchester United side, and very much missed as Anthony Martial (£8.7m) turned in another sub-par showing up top, was Edinson Cavani (£7.9m).
The Uruguayan, Scott McTominay (£4.9m) and Donny van de Beek (£6.6m) all failed to recover from minor issues and weren’t part of the matchday squad.
There was a modest rush for Cavani’s services ahead of Gameweek 24 and those Fantasy managers who were planning to keep the veteran striker for the Red Devils’ Double Gameweek 26 face a nervy wait over the coming days, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offering one of his trademark sketchy injury updates ahead of Thursday’s clash with Real Sociedad:
Donny, Edinson and Scott, I don’t know. Maybe they’ll be available but I’m not sure.
Newcastle assets won’t be high on many FPL managers’ shopping lists right now, not least because they are without two fixtures in Gameweek 26.
Budget FPL midfielder Saint-Maximin, again playing as one of the two wide forwards in Steve Bruce’s attacking 4-4-2 diamond system, is a name to at least monitor for Blank Gameweek 29, having banked three attacking returns in as many games since his return to the starting XI after injury.
There could be a change between the posts by the time that Brighton game comes around, meanwhile, with Martin Dubravka (£4.8m) waiting in the wings and the Newcastle boss sounding some ominous words about current number one Karl Darlow (£5.0m), who was beaten at his near post by Rashford’s opener:
Karl Darlow has had a magnificent season so far. He’ll be disappointed with the first goal in particular, because, obviously, it’s the cardinal sin to let one in at the near post.
Whether I’ve got a decision (to make), I’ve not even thought about that yet. I haven’t even thought about that decision just yet.
MANCHESTER UNITED XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Matic, Fred; James (Mata 88), Fernandes, Rashford (Shoretire 88); Martial (Greenwood 69).
NEWCASTLE UNITED XI (4-3-1-2) Darlow; Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis; Willock, Hayden, Almiron (Gayle 78′); Shelvey; Joelinton (Fraser 54′), Saint-Maximin.
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