Man United 2-1 Aston Villa
- Goals: Anthony Martial (£8.7m), Bruno Fernandes (£11.2m) | Bertrand Traoré (£5.9m)
- Assists: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m), Paul Pogba (£7.7m) | Jack Grealish (£7.7m)
- Bonus points: Fernandes x3, Grealish x2, Wan-Bissaka x1
PAY THE PENALTY
Manchester United’s knack for winning penalties continues to underpin Bruno Fernandes‘ (£11.2m) Fantasy Premier League credentials ahead of their appealing run of fixtures.
The Portuguese international, now owned by 50.4% of managers worldwide, despatched his fifth spot-kick of the campaign in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, the sixth he had taken over the first 17 Gameweeks.
Only Jamie Vardy (£10.2m) has shouldered the responsibility of more penalties (seven) in the Premier League than Fernandes (six) so far. Beyond that, since Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s first Premier League match in charge of Manchester United (December 2018), his side had been awarded (27) and scored (21) the most penalties.
“(Fernandes) wants to take the penalties and that’s the first thing. He is never afraid of missing. He has been very safe and is a confident man on the spot.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
As a result, Manchester United’s established penchant for winning spot-kicks could arguably play a part in captaincy decisions over the next two Gameweeks – when the Red Devils play three times.
More importantly, two of their next three opponents have been particularly obliging in the box this season. Liverpool and Fulham, who Manchester United face in Double Gameweek 19 have both given up five penalties in 2020/21, the second-most behind only Leeds (six) at the time of writing.
Since Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in Gameweek 7, Solskjaer’s men have gone undefeated and won eight of their last 10 league matches – setting up for a very interesting encounter at Anfield later this month…
A new role for Paul Pogba (£7.7m) against Aston Villa pushed Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) into a relatively unfamiliar role on Friday night, perhaps throwing a spanner into the works of preparations for Blank Gameweek 18 and Double Gameweek 19.
Solskjaer gave the Frenchman a chance to operate on the left-hand side of attacking midfield, where Rashford has produced some of his best work since Project Restart.
Having spent much of 2020 sitting in the holding midfield pair at Manchester United, Pogba was hugely impressive in a wider and more advanced position. He had more shots in the box than anyone on the pitch, attempted more passes than any other colleague (48) and won the penalty which led to victory.
“He’s getting better and better. I think he played well today. They are a physical side and Paul’s one of these guys who can get hold of it for us.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Pogba is sure to fancy his chances of holding onto the left-wing position for next week’s trip to Burnley, which could bring him into consideration for those building squads around the Blank and Double Gameweeks.
Of course, we also have to assess the impact on Rashford who went an eighth home Premier League match from his last nine without a goal.
In an unfamiliar role on the right-hand side of the attack, the Englishman was arguably the least impressive of Manchester United’s front four against Aston Villa, closely marked by Matt Targett (£4.6m) and somewhat selfish in key moments too.
It must be remembered that Rashford has been considerably more effective away from home anyway, which bodes well in light of Manchester United’s next three matches all taking place on the road.
In nine Premier League outings at Old Trafford this season, the 23-year-old has just one attacking return. In just six away matches, Rashford has found the net six times and added four assists.
Anthony Martial (£8.7m) has less of an excuse for his home form, considering he has just one league goal at Old Trafford and one on the road too.
He seems a much less viable asset for the Blank and Double Gameweek based on his starting credentials anyway. Edinson Cavani (£7.8m) was handed a three-match ban by the FA, but two of those will be spent on cup competitions. Gameweek 17 was the only league match the Uruguayan was due to miss and he will be available for the Gameweek 18 trip to Burnley.
Just as Fantasy managers were starting to lose faith with him, Jack Grealish (£7.7m) posted a seven-point score in another impressive performance for Aston Villa.
Over the five matches previous to Gameweek 17, the midfield maestro was outscored by 42 points to 19 by colleague Anwar El Ghazi (£5.8m).
Grealish has, of course, been unfortunate not to pick up more assists in that time thanks to wayward finishing from Ollie Watkins (£6.1m).
As is often the case in FPL, the good fortune swung back around at Old Trafford. Grealish capitalised from a lapse in concentration from Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) to cross into the box in the second half.
The ball came through a crowd of bodies yet managed to go untouched by Douglas Luiz (£4.9m) before Bertrand Traoré (£5.9m) bundled it home.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Shaw, Maguire, Bailly, Wan-Bissaka; Fred (Tuanzebe 90+4′), McTominay (Matić 65′); Pogba, B Fernandes (D James 87′), Rashford; Martial.
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martínez; Targett, Mings, Konsa, Cash; McGinn, D Luiz; El Ghazi (Davis 84′), Grealish, B Traoré (J Ramsey 79′); Watkins.
Lessons learned from FPL Gameweek 17
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