After a infuriatingly patchy first half of the season, Manchester United looked to have found some form before the postponement of the league season. Old Trafford was in boisterous mood when Scott Mctominay floated the ball past Ederson at the end of the the last Premier League game and a promising end to the season seemed to be on the cards.
This promise has turned into talk of Manchester United players being essential as FPL returns, but is this true and if so where do we go?
The return of Paul Pogba
Pogba has spent most of the season seemingly trying to force a move away. But like the office creep who tries to leave his wife for someone new, only to find his wife leaves him, United seemed to have moved on with a handsome Portuguese superstar.
One of the highlights of the lockdown break was the inclusion of Bruno Fernandes in a Premier League team of the season. Such one eyed shithousery can only be applauded. Whilst 5 league games is far too early to call Fernandes a superstar, what can’t be denied is the transformative effect he has had on the team. Bringing ball playing creativity into a team that had been reliant on counter attacks has added a new dimension tactically, and his carefree swaggering demeanour seems to have increased confidence levels in the team.
The question now will be how can he and Pogba play in the same side. The optimist would say there is no reason they can’t play in a similar fashion to David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne do for Manchester City. The pessimist says they might be another version of Gerrard and Lampard for England. De Bruyne and Silva of course play for a tactical genius in Guardiola and have Fernandinho playing behind them. Gerrard and Lampard, as you’ll remember were lumbered with an overrated, one dimensional Scandinavian manager who had no idea how to handle them.
If Solskjaer can find a way of sneaking Pogba back into this team seamlessly then United could be a force to be reckoned with. The most obvious formation would be Pogba and Fernandes in a midfield three with Matic, Mctominay or Fred sitting deeper. If this happens both Pogba and Fernandes would be FPL options. The suspicion is though that either one of Pogba or Fernandes would sit deeper with a more defensive midfielder with the other playing as an out and out 10. The worry for FPL managers is that both Pogba and Fernandes are capable of playing deeper or at 10 and that formations and therefore FPL returns would be harder to predict. A third option maybe Pogba in midfield with 2 of Matic, Mctominay and Fred with Fernandes pushed into a front three with Martial and Rashford. This could be FPL gold and give United a more solid platform, it would though force Fernandes into a wide right role which probably wouldn’t suit him as much as the midfield role. No matter which way United line up then it looks certain that one of Pogba and Fernandes would be a less viable option than the other.
The Case for the Defence
Previously one of the downsides of Pogba has an FPL option was his versatility and his managers preference to play him in a more defensive midfield role such was the lack of trust in the defence. After a slow start Harry Maguire looks to have imposed himself on the team and the 17 games before the lockdown brought 12 clean sheets for United. The improvement in defence means any of De Gea, Wan Bissaka or Maguire can be considered and if a triple up is your preference a defensive option might be a better choice than three attackers.
Set piece chaos?
One of the most intriguing and possibly damaging impacts on Pobga, Rashford and Fernandes all playing together is the situation with set pieces. United have already had three players miss a league penalty this season. Fernandes had taken over penalty duties prior to the lockdown and scored and missed a penalty in a warm up game this week.
The set pieces are likely to be shared even more given Pogba and Rashford’s return and this provides us will another dilemma. Since Solskjaer took charge Rashford, Pogba and Fernandes have 51 combined returns. 16 of these have been directly from set pieces. Of the last 29 Premier League goals Pogba, Rashford and Fernandes have scored, 15 of them have been penalties. If you end up on the wrong end of the set piece roulette owning United attackers could be very frustrating.
50 million down the drain as Martial scores again
One player who isn’t indebted to set pieces is Anthony Martial. Of his 14 FPL returns this season only 1 – the volley from Fernandes chip in the last game against Manchester City came from a set piece. Martial has 11 goals and 3 assists in the equivalent of just under 21 games. At 8 million and starting up front as an out of position midfielder, the Frenchman should be our number one choice if we go to United. He is a 0.6 saving on Fernandes and a 0.8 saving on Rashford and he also frees up a third striker spot which could be vital in the run in. The Frenchman has firmly established himself as the first choice number 9 with Rashford seemingly liberated from the left when Martial plays and the first United name on a free hit, wildcard etc should be Martial.
The reason for the optimism is of course the run in. The restart will start “away” at Spurs and end “away” at Leicester. Two trips that should hold less trepidation than they might have pre lockdown. Incidentally United won both games 1-0 last season with superb Pogba assists for Rashford. Between those games United play:
Sheffield United H (7th)
Brighton A (15th)
Bournemouth H (18th)
Aston Villa A (19th)
Southampton H (14th)
Crystal Palace A (11th)
West Ham H (16th)
With that in mind it’s hard to put anyone off any United assets after the Spurs game the only word of warning would be to point you to United’s collapse this time last season. United lost 8 of the last 12 last season, crashing out of the top 4 race and dropping out of Europe and the FA Cup, United look to be in a better position this season but under Solskjaer form and momentum has veered so wildly it makes a Tory Party policy look sensible and consistent.
Top 3 picks for the run in
Anthony Martial 8.0 MID
Bruno Fernandes 8.6 MID
Harry Maguire 5.3 DEF