A few years ago I went on a stag do to Liverpool, we started with a meal at a five star restaurant, before playing bubble football – the perfect activity after a huge meal – especially if you like whiplash, sprained ankles and stomach pains. We then went for a beer or twenty in Liverpool. The night was to end at the world famous cavern club to see a Beatles tribute act.
The night at the Cavern Club came to a premature end after only two songs, “Hello Goodbye” and “Hey Bulldog”, the band were superb but unfortunately we were thrown out after the grooms brother urinated on the bar.
The night then spiralled as we tried to find a bar to go to culminating in the brother ripping the shirt off the groom’s back and missing the last train back and paying for a taxi home.
That sprawling, unorganised, hilarious night out could have easily been organised by Ed Woodward given the clubs scattergun transfer window so far. You don’t need me to run through every detail of the last few months so instead I will assess the new and potential signings in fantasy terms.
Aaron Wan Bissaka, Defender, 5.5
The young full back was a 4.0 superstar for most of us last year and with a week until the first game is the 3rd highest owned player in the game – a ludicrous figure given his new team had five less Clean Sheets than his former side last season. Wan Bissaka should still fare well on the bonus point system and his speed and tackling has been on full show in the pre season games, he is also a must in Sky given the tackle bonuses on offer. There are still some doubts on his attacking play but the underlying numbers suggest that in a more attacking team his assists and goals should increase in the same way that Robertson’s did moving from Hull to Liverpool. Wan Bissaka should also benefit from United’s centre back purchase of Harry Maguire, defender, 5.5
After a summer long pursuit United finally spent a world record 85 million fee on the former Leicester centre back. A fee that is possibly a touch high but not as mad as many would have you believe. How much is too much for a club in desperate need of an international centre back, who spent a billion pound in interest on debt a decade, who are buying from a fellow cash rich Premier League club who don’t need to sell?
Maguire is however an odd signing in that he doesn’t get United to the elite level but massively improves where they are now. He is also great on the ball, a presence, a leader and a personality. What he isn’t is quick. And his lack of pace will force United to defend deeper, a tactic surely at odds with the pressing style on show by James, Martial, Rashford etc on pre season.
As with wan Bissaka who left a 12 clean sheet team, Maguire leaves a team who had a superb defensive midfielder in Ndidi, the Leicester holding midfielder averaged 6 tackles and interceptions a game compared to Matic who averaged 2.9 a game.
The lack of a solid defensive midfielder will be the least of United’s worries if David De Gea continues his late season form and as such given United open with Chelsea and Wolves and are coming off their worst ever Premier League season defensively avoiding all United defensive assets seems to be the best way forward until we see an upturn in defensive returns.
Ahead of wan Bissaka at right back could see new signing Daniel James, midfielder, 6.0. The young winger was bought from Swansea and his career stats to date of 7 goals, 11 assists in 43 games don’t immediately spring out as an FPL asset but he is lightening quick and has impressed Solskjaer with his positive attitude on tour. If we get a glimpse of him starting more often than not in United’s weak link positions on the wings he could be worth a gamble at the cheap price of 6 million.
James could also be joined in midfield by the near mythical figure of Bruno Fernandes who has been linked with City, Liverpool and Spurs as well as United. It would be no surprise if he joined for a huge fee in the last week of the transfer window. But it would be hard to recommend him given the tricky nature of judging how his numbers in the Portuguese league would translate into a struggling side in the Premier League.
At time of writing United were also linked to Dybala, who in a stunning state of affairs was said to be cold on the United deal given he would have to leave Juventus to play Europa League football. The Argentine had three stunning seasons at Juventus before a quiet one in Ronaldo’s shadow last season. With less than a week to go until the season starts the trail looked to have gone cold as Dybala didn’t want to play for the club but £350,000 a week in his back pocket may soon see him state he has always dreamed of playing for the club. If he goes in as a less than 10.0 midfielder he would be a great pick from GW3 for the visit of Crystal Palace.
There also remains the possibility Dybala is joined by fellow Juventus player Mandzukic. Mandzukic is a Champions League winner and one of only five players to have scored in both the European Cup/Champions League & the World Cup final (answers at the end). He is also not an FPL option unless he he is sub 6.5 million.
The Dybala and Mandzukic deals seem to hinge on Lukaku 8.5 moving the other direction. The Belgian seems to be a none factor now and his absence up front could pave the way for an out of position bargain. Anthony Martial, midfielder, 7.5 could be the one to benefit as the Frenchman has been playing up front all pre season, he also averages 6.20 points per 90 as a midfielder in his FPL career. Martial also converted the highest percentage of chances of any top six player last season – 15 percent higher than Aubameyang, Sterling, Salah and Aguero. If Martial is the first choice centre forward he is must own and the games against Chelsea and Wolves will serve as a good audition for a potential GW3 purchase.
Avoiding United players over the first fortnight is a good rule of thumb so we can see what kind of style they are playing before a kinder run of games GW3 to GW14.
United are again not must own in these opening weeks no matter who they buy and the last week of the transfer market could certainly be more fun than the next 9 months on the pitch.
(Trivia answer: Puskas, Czibor, Muller, Zidane, Mandzukic)