Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United
- Goals: Scott McTominay (£4.9m) x2, Bruno Fernandes (£11.0m) x2, Victor Lindelof (£4.8m), Daniel James (£6.2m) | Liam Cooper (£4.4m), Stuart Dallas (£4.6m)
- Assists: Anthony Martial (£8.7m) x3, Fernandes, McTominay | Raphinha (£5.4m)
- Bonus: McTominay x3, Fernandes x2, Martial x1
Bruno Fernandes (£11.0m) bounced back from a brace of blanks with a huge haul in one of the wildest matches of this, or any other, season.
The Manchester United midfielder became the fifth player to make it to 100 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points this campaign with two goals, an assist and two bonus against Leeds.
But in keeping with the crazy nature of the match, he was outscored by Scott McTominay (£4.9m), a player who scored twice in the first three minutes to match his entire attacking output from the 2018/19 season.
Bruno It Makes Sense
The 42.5%-owned Fernandes actually lost a net 5,647 managers heading into the game. Those faithless few missed out on his joint-best return of the season, 17 points.
Wiser folk – more than 1.1 million of them – captained him and his Gameweek 15 star is on the rise as 70,000+ managers have made him the third most bought player heading into the Christmas fixtures.
He’s now scored nine goals and provided six assists this season, which means he’s had a hand in just over half of all United’s 28 goals.
Five of his strikes have been something other than spot-kicks, a ‘non-penalty’ total that only two other FPL midfielders can trump.
Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer’s team is not quite of the one-man variety, but Fernandes is its beating heart, and he’s arguably up there with Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) as the closest thing we have to an FPL must-have now.
Yes, Tottenham’s Son Heung-min (£9.7m) has more points, but from an extra match and, crucially, 25 attempts to Fernandes’ 40 – a conversion rate that should be unsustainable in the longer term.
McTominay limped off with a groin issue late on and only close family members consider him an FPL option anyway, while Solskjaer’s decision to hand Daniel James (£6.2m) a rare start raised eyebrows, but worked well as the winger scored a goal.
Rather more pertinently, Anthony Martial‘s (£8.7m) 3.7% ownership were treated to three assists and a second straight double-digit haul from their man.
The French forward has had a stop-start season not helped by a three-match suspension following his Gameweek 4 red card against Spurs.
But four of his five assists, and his one and only goal, have come in the last two matches.
Leicester, Wolves and Aston Villa will be tougher tests of him and his team, while a blank Gameweek 18 further tarnishes his appeal, but Martial’s sudden burst of form will need monitoring given his reputation as a somewhat streaky player.
Investment in a United full-back remains thankless, however.
Their most-owned defender, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m and 8.4%), was one of the very few players not wearing goalkeeping gloves who failed to join the attacking party on Sunday, having no shots and creating no chances.
The Damned Exciting United
Solskjaer was delighted that his team managed a rare home win and he made an interesting post-match point about United’s delayed start to the season:
We look at the improvement in fitness because we knew we were going to be lagging behind in fitness, and I think it showed in the first few games but now, today, I think we showed we are getting a fitter and stronger team.
But whatever the long-term factors, the key to Sunday’s rousing game was Leeds.
Despite keeping a more than respectable four clean sheets, Marcelo Bielsa’s side are now the leakiest defence in the league, with 30 goals conceded.
Their swashbuckling nature played into the hands of the home side and the coach isn’t about to change that any time soon:
Of course, it is very hurtful. We will correct what was bad and try to keep the good things, but we will not abandon the way we play.
It takes an equally brave Fantasy manager to invest in their defenders, but the one exception to the rule is Stuart Dallas (£4.6m), who scored for the second game running as Bielsa continues to sporadically use the full-back in midfield.
He’s now owned by 8.5% of FPL bosses, with 42.7% of teams involving Patrick Bamford (£6.4%).
The striker had a poor day, missing one big chance and failing to hit the target with any of his three attempts, with his early-season ruthlessness (a conversion rate of 26.1% in Gameweeks 1-6) giving way to the more recognisable profligacy (10.3% since).
But that hasn’t stopped more than 80,000 new owners making him Gameweek 15’s second most popular purchase, presumably swayed by Leeds’ next two opponents being Burnley and West Brom.
And from a starting price of £5.5m, 12 attacking returns in 14 starts is well above-par.
Manchester United XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw (Telles 60), McTominay, Fred, James, Fernandes (van de Beek 71), Rashford (Cavani 71), Martial.
Leeds United XI: Meslier, Dallas, Ayling, Cooper (Davis 72), Alioski, Raphinha, Rodrigo, Phillips (Struijk 45), Klich (Shackleton 45), Harrison, Bamford.
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Aston Villa
- Goals: Anwar El Ghazi (£5.7m) x2, Bertrand Traore (£5.9m)
- Assists: Jack Grealish (£7.8m) x2, Traore
- Bonus: El Ghazi x3, Traore x2, Grealish x1
Sam Allardyce’s return to top-flight management ended in chastening defeat as Aston Villa continued their exceptional away form.
Brought in to stave off relegation, presumably through the medium of ‘tightening up at the back’, his new side were already a goal down when Jake Livermore‘s (£4.7m) red card for a lunging tackle on Jack Grealish (£7.8m) effectively ended the game as a contest.
Villa left it late to convert their dominance into goals, but it’s now five wins in six matches on the road for Dean Smith’s men, all achieved with clean sheets.
Heavy Hitting Middle Men
Smith gave a rare managerial run-out for the word ‘exquisite’ in his post-match comments, but it was perfectly justifiable:
We knew there was a chance they could have a new manager bounce and I thought we negated that really well with our start and we continued it through the game. Our performance was exquisite from start to finish.
Much of that was down to Grealish, who continues to be the main man for Villa.
His two assists meant a welcome return to the points for him and his 43.2% FPL ownership after a couple of recent blanks.
Meanwhile, the ongoing absence of Ross Barkley (£5.9m), who Smith revealed pre-match is close to a return from his hamstring injury, is not currently hurting the team’s output from midfield.
Grealish is not the only one to take credit for that, as Anwar El Ghazi’s (£5.7m) second straight start was a memorable one.
The Netherlands international was wasteful in Gameweek 13’s goalless draw with Burnley, but he was the star of the show on Sunday, with two goals.
Fellow midfielder Bertrand Traore (£5.9m) also caught the eye, scoring with a smart finish and setting up El Ghazi’s opener.
Woe For Watkins
Villa striker Ollie Watkins (£6.1m) blanked for a fifth straight game, although he was unlucky not to score when his finish from a Matt Cash (£5.0m) cross was deemed offside by the tightest of VAR-determined margins.
The problem for his 7.8% ownership is that one of his main attractions – being the side’s penalty taker – doesn’t apply when El Ghazi plays.
It was the midfielder who stepped up and converted the spot-kick awarded for a foul on Grealish on Sunday, leaving Watkins with just two chances, one of which forced a smart save from the ever-excellent Baggies keeper Sam Johnstone (£4.5m).
Villa’s next four fixtures suggest Watkins sales are incoming. Their indifferent home form makes Crystal Palace and Spurs look especially tricky, while trips to Chelsea and Manchester United won’t exactly be walkovers either.
A seventh clean sheet – no team has managed more – helped Tyrone Mings (£5.3m) into the top four FPL defenders, but the FPL love remains strongest for Grealish, who is yet again pulling in new owners ahead of the Boxing Day visit from Palace.
Trouble In Allardyce
West Brom’s new coach was heavy on the irony in his assessment of the near future:
An easy one next (Liverpool). We will give it our best shot, no-one expected us to battle against Manchester City and I did not see that tonight, we need to find that.
The fact that brilliant, battling display against City was the final work of Slaven Bilic only accentuates the curious decision to sack him, but that’s now in the past.
The future, alas, is not looking too clever either, with Leeds, Arsenal and a blank Gameweek 18 to follow Sunday’s trip to the reigning champions.
Fantasy managers will be going nowhere near Baggies assets just yet, although those with a taste for save points might like to know that the impressive Johnstone has now made a league-leading 63 stops this season.
West Brom XI (4-5-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, O’Shea, Gibbs; Phillips (Austin 78), Sawyers, Livermore, Gallagher, Diangana (Ivanovic 78); Grant (Robinson 83).
Aston Villa XI (4-1-4-1): Martinez; Cash, Hause, Mings, Targett; Luiz; McGinn, Traore, Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins.
Lessons learned from FPL Gameweek 14
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