Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
- Goal: Craig Dawson (£4.5m) own goal
- Assist: Scott McTominay (£4.9m)
- Bonus: Luke Shaw (£5.2m) x3 Harry Maguire (£5.5m) x2 Victor Lindelof (£4.8m) x2
West Ham warmed up for their Gameweek 29 visit from Arsenal with a performance at Old Trafford that left Fantasy managers none the wiser as to the worth of their key assets.
Deep, But Not Interesting
The blame for that should be laid firmly at the door of manager David Moyes, who set his team up to sit deep, flood the central areas and hope to create chances on the break.
The Hammers are one win off the Champions League places and were ill-served by such a mid-table mentality.
It will be interesting to see if Moyes displays a similar lack of ambition for the Arsenal clash. If so, the likes of striker Michail Antonio (£6.6m) best brace himself for another match in which he has just the one (off target) shot and a mere three penalty area touches.
Moyes dismissed the idea he would have done things differently in hindsight, before also saying:
The way we set up maybe didn’t quite work. We changed it a bit at half time and again later on. It improved it a little bit.
Jesse Lingard (£6.1m), who was ineligible to play against his parent club, should reinvigorate the midfield for the Arsenal match and he’s currently the second most popular buy for Gameweek 29’s reduced round of four fixtures.
But Moyes will also need to loosen his naturally cautious grip on games involving perceived ‘big teams’ such as United and the Gunners if Fantasy managers are to enjoy the benefits of the Hammers’ well-priced and otherwise productive attacking players.
Luke At All Those Points
Any side that loses to an own goal will feel aggrieved.
In this case it involved Craig Dawson (£4.5m), via the faintest of flick-ons by Scott McTominay (£4.9m) from a Bruno Fernandes (£11.5m) corner.
But Lukasz Fabianski (£5.0m) had pulled off some fine saves, especially one from Fernandes, and Mason Greenwood (£7.0m) had also hit the post before Dawson’s unfortunate intervention.
As the Gameweek’s most-captained player, Fernandes’ blank – his third in four starts – was unpopular.
But the 300,000 or so new managers who have dialled into Luke Shaw (£5.2m) in recent weeks were rewarded with a fourth straight haul (and a seventh in nine starts) as he brought in maximum bonus points for the second week running.
United have now kept four straight clean sheets – during a run including Chelsea and Manchester City, lest it be forgotten – and there’s plenty of scope for more of the same once next weekend’s blank is out of the way.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attacking options were limited on Sunday, with strikers Anthony Martial (£8.6m) and Edinson Cavani (£7.8m) both missing with knocks that shouldn’t be an issue by the time the side returns to league action in early April.
The international break could serve United well. The club’s injury problems are sufficiently troublesome at present that Solksjaer was forced to name two goalkeepers on Sunday’s bench – a reason why he ended up using no substitutes at all.
Man Utd XI (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Greenwood.
West Ham XI (4-5-1): Fabianski; Coufal, Diop, Dawson, Cresswell; Johnson (Benrahma 62), Rice, Soucek, Noble (Lanzini 62), Bowen; Antonio.
Leicester City 5-0 Sheffield United
- Goals: Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.6m) x3, Ayoze Perez (£6.0m), Ethan Ampadu (£4.3m) own goal
- Assists: Jamie Vardy (£10.2m) x3, Marc Albrighton (£5.2m),Wilfred Ndidi (£4.8m)
- Bonus: Iheanacho x3 Vardy x2 Wesley Fofana (£5.0m) x1
Sheffield United’s dismal season took a turn for the catastrophic with a thrashing at the hands of a ruthless Leicester City.
It is difficult to describe just how poor the Blades were under interim manager Paul Heckingbottom, but the fact that they managed just one attempt – off target – all match speaks volumes for their deficiencies.
Things were much livelier at the other end, with the burgeoning partnership between Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.6m) and Jamie Vardy (£10.2m) proving particularly fruitful.
The former ended up with a hat-trick, the latter with three assists, and the pair are justifying manager Brendan Rodgers’ decision to use them to fill the attacking void created by injuries to James Maddison (£7.1m) and, more recently, Harvey Barnes (£6.8m).
Iheanacho now has five goals in his four starts since Maddison’s hip problem, while Vardy’s returns against Sheffield were his first since the Nigeria international joined him up front.
Rodgers was understandably keen to praise the hat-trick man post-match.
He was outstanding, not just in his goals, but his overall work-rate. He had a big responsibility today, in terms of dropping into the space, finding that pocket that was just on the back of the midfield, and I thought he did that very, very well.
An especially giddy 31,000+ Fantasy managers were so impressed by Iheanacho they transferred him in for Leicester’s non-existent Gameweek 29 fixture.
But with Manchester City and West Ham to come immediately after the international break, investment in the Foxes’ key assets might be better delayed until the fixtures (WBA CRY sou NEW) turn tasty in Gameweek 32.
One player who had enjoyed modest purchases in recent weeks has been defender Ricardo Pereira (£5.9m).
Deployed either as a wide midfielder or, as against the Blades, as a wing-back, Pereira failed to benefit from Leicester’s first clean sheet since Gameweek 23 as he was subbed off at half-time.
Rodgers explained the move was precautionary:
He just felt tight in his hamstring, so we’ll just see how that looks, but hopefully, it won’t be too bad. It didn’t go, but he just felt it tightening, so we just need to be careful with it.
The upcoming break looks well-timed for Pereira – and for both Maddison and Barnes – as they all continue to recover from their injuries, but should Rodgers retain faith in his new attacking axis, Iheanacho has value, form and, from Gameweek 32, the fixtures to offer something different in the run-in.
Leicester City XI (3-4-1-2): Schmeichel; Soyuncu, Evans, Fofana; Castagne, Ndidi, Tielemans, R Pereira (Albrighton 45); Perez (Leshabela 81); Vardy, Iheanacho.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Ramsdale; Bryan, Ampadu, Basham; Stevens, Fleck, Norwood (Ndiaye 79), Lundstram, Baldock; Sharp, Burke (Mousset 63).
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