Manchester United 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Goals: Marcus Rashford (£9.5m), Mason Greenwood (£7.0m) | Danny Welbeck (£5.5m)
- Assists: Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m), Paul Pogba (£7.6m)
- Bonus Points: Welbeck x3 Pogba x2 Rashford x1
A second-half comeback secured Manchester United the points from a match of mixed Fantasy implications.
Based on FPL ownership levels alone, the two big questions arising from the contest were: did Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) haul and did United keep a clean sheet?
The answer, to both, was no.
Danny Welbeck (£5.5m) ruined the chances of well-owned defenders Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.7m and 16.9%) and Luke Shaw (£5.3m/15.1%) earning clean sheet points for a fifth straight match.
The goal was the striker’s third attacking return in as many Gameweeks, but anyone considering Brighton assets for the run-in need only look at the Seagulls’ schedule to pop that thought in the bad ideas box.
United’s isn’t much better – they still have to face fellow top four wannabes Spurs (away) and Liverpool and Leicester at Old Trafford.
Even with a relatively tricky fixture list, those managers without Fernandes in their FPL sides could be in for a rough ride thanks to the midfielder’s popularity.
Bruno Always In Fashion
The Portugal international is, at 58.3%, the most-owned player in FPL, so any non-owners chasing a decent overall ranking will get burned every time he produces points, which is often, and especially so when he’s captained, which is also common.
He was only handed the armband by 17.6% of the top 10,000 FPL managers for the Brighton clash and they had to make do with an assist (and no bonus points) from their man.
Then again, he’d blanked in three of the previous four matches, and the underlying stats suggested a better outcome wouldn’t have been a complete surprise.
It’s a measure of how reliable Fernandes is that ‘just’ the five points from a match is considered a disappointment.
But a run-in that also involves potentially tricky tests against Leeds, Aston Villa and an increasingly sturdy Wolves might not treat that massive ownership overly well.
Front Four Focus
Of United’s other attacking assets, Anthony Martial (£8.6m) could be out for the season with a knee injury, which leant Edinson Cavani‘s (£7.8m) first start in three Gameweeks a touch more importance.
The striker promptly turned in an anonymous performance involving zero shots or chances created.
Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) and Mason Greenwood (£7.0m) were considerably livelier, and they both scored.
But the former had to be replaced after 72 minutes, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer unsure as to the severity of the issue:
He got caught with a tackle so he had to come off. Let’s see how he goes again. Marcus doesn’t want to miss any games or any minutes, but he had to come off. Your fingers are crossed and you hope he’s going to recover from it. He had to come off but he’s a tough one.
With a Europa League tie in midweek followed three days later by a big trip to Spurs, 8.7% of FPL managers will be keeping a close eye on Rashford news.
Man Utd XI (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Pogba (McTominay 84); Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford (James 72); Cavani (van de Beek 82).
Brighton XI (3-4-1-2): Sanchez; White, Dunk, Veltman; Gross, Bissouma, Lallana (Zeqiri 87), Moder (Jahanbakhsh 87); Trossard (Mac Allister 63); Welbeck, Maupay.
Aston Villa 3-1 Fulham
- Goals: Trezeguet (£5.2m) x2, Ollie Watkins (£6.6m) | Aleksandar Mitrovic (£5.5m)
- Assists: Tyrone Mings (£5.4m), Keinan Davis (£4.2m), Bertrand Traore (£5.9m)
- Bonus Points: Trezeguet x3 Mitrovic x2 Watkins x1
Fulham blew a big chance to move out of the relegation zone as Aston Villa scored three late goals to secure a surprise win.
With 12 minutes to go, Fulham were still holding on to a deserved lead given them by the recalled Aleksandar Mitrovic‘s (£5.5m) 61st-minute goal.
Substitute Trezeguet (£5.2m) then hit a quick-fire double as Scott Parker’s side crumbled under the first period of sustained pressure the hosts managed all match.
Jack Shot (Still)
Before then, the usual stats about life without Jack Grealish (£7.5m), who missed out on a return from injury after feeling discomfort in training on Saturday, were being trotted out.
Chief among them was the fact Villa had scored only three goals in the six matches their skipper had missed. Three in the last 12 minutes on Sunday put that one to bed, although Fulham’s chronic inability to manage the game had much to do with that, as Parker acknowledged post-match:
It’s a young team, but we were naive and made silly mistakes. After the first goal, we dropped our intensity and it affected us too much and we weren’t streetwise enough.
Fulham weren’t clinical enough either – Villa scored from three of their four shots on target, the Cottagers from just one of their seven.
On Grealish, Smith said:
He just felt some discomfort yesterday in training and we had to pull him out. Listen, Jack wants to play more than anybody and when Jack tells you he’s got a little bit of pain still then you have to take notice of it.
We erred on the side of caution with it and yes he’s going to be a miss when he doesn’t play because he brings so much to the team.
But the players have shown today that they can get the win without him today – and for him.
Mings The Merciful
That at least meant two save points for FPL’s most popular keeper, Villa stopper Emiliano Martinez (£5.4m), but his team’s inability to keep clean sheets against less potent attacks has been a strange recent phenomenon.
The goal conceded on Sunday was down to a mistake from Tyrone Mings (£5.4m).
He’s owned by 8.8% in FPL, with team-mates Matt Targett (£5.1m and 14.7%) and Ezri Konsa (£4.7m and 7%) also popular and Martinez’s 41.3% fan club dwarfing them all.
All those managers have enjoyed clean sheet points just twice in six matches, despite encounters with Sheffield United, Newcastle, and now Fulham, that should have produced more.
The problem now is a run-in the wrong side of brutal.
Yes, Villa still have a Double Gameweek to come, but that will involve Everton – one of six sides currently above them in the table they’ll face before the season’s end.
Ollie’s At The Wheel
At least Ollie Watkins‘ (£6.6m) late tap-in broke a personal goal drought going all the way back to Gameweek 23.
The new England international’s 26.1% ownership has stayed remarkably loyal during that barren spell, despite living off a meagre diet of just two assists.
But even with a Grealish return (presumably) close, the 119,638 who moved Watkins on before Sunday’s goal look like being early surfers of a big sales wave when Villa’s fixture list is taken into consideration.
As for Fulham, a blank Gameweek 33 and a mixed bag of other matches doesn’t inspire investment, especially as a recent run of clean sheets has now been replaced by a record of eight goals conceded across the last three games.
And the 3% of managers who had made Ademola Lookman (£5.1m) one of the side’s more popular Fantasy assets will have been irked to see their man hobble off with a hamstring issue at Villa Park, prompting this evaluation from Parker post-match:
He just felt his hamstring a little bit, I don’t know how bad it is – we’ll have to look at that tomorrow.
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Douglas Luiz (Ramsey 74); Sanson (Davis 67), Traore, El Ghazi (Trezeguet 62); Watkins.
Fulham XI (4-2-3-1): Areola; Tete, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Aina; Reed, Lemina (Onomah 83); Decordova-Reid, Loftus-Cheek (Maja 83), Lookman (Cavaleiro 47); Mitrovic.
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