Since the inception of the Premier League, Man United have been the most dominant side, meaning that their players have always been absolutely vital in FPL. From recent names like Rooney and Van Persie, to the likes of Ballon D’or-winning Cristiano Ronaldo, even going back to the days of Van Nistelrooy; United have always been a force in FPL.
This hasn’t necessarily been the case in recent years, with United struggling since the departure of Sir Alex. Will this year be when it turns around for United, with more of their players becoming FPL assets? Here’s a look at how United are shaping up for the 17/18 FPL season.
Man United’s 16/17 Season
Looking at how they got on last season, Manchester United players were rather disappointing both generally and in terms of fantasy football, with them finishing in 6th place.
As a whole, they only scored 54 goals – the eight-highest in the league – with them scoring fewer goals than Everton and Bournemouth. Things were better at the other end, conceding only 29 – the second fewest in the league behind Spurs.
Their main problem going forward was profligacy. They were creating chances, but they couldn’t finish them. They averaged 11.9 key passes and 15 shots per game – both the fourth highest in the league – but they weren’t being put away, with Zlatan’s nose for goal being slightly off that season. Despite his overall goal tally, his conversion rate was very poor.
In terms of who returned for them in FPL, Ibrahimovic was the main man to have as he scored 17 goals, looking essential after the first few gameweeks. After that, he generally returned in bursts, hitting double figures for three consecutive game weeks at one point. He’s no longer with United after suffering a nasty knee injury which ended his season, and still has him recuperating. He could make a dramatic return once he’s back to full fitness, as he’s still without a club.
Valencia was the go-to defensive option, picking up 120 points, his best return since switching to his new full back role. He was also rested rather often towards the back-end of the season as United prioritised the Europa League, limiting his returns.
De Gea was the other key option. With him being probably the first name on the team sheet, his ownership was very high due to his consistent returns. He actually returned massively for a select few towards the end of the season, picking up 17 points in a double game week, with some managers even captaining him, as recommended by Fantasy Football Fix.
Other than that, there weren’t too many points knocking around. Pogba played well but didn’t return too often in terms of goals and assists, Martial had a very poor season, Mkhitaryan didn’t get up to much outside of the Europa League, and the defence was chopped and changed due to form, injuries and African tournaments.
Things can only get better, right?
Summer Signings So Far
United have recruited fairly early on and fairly heavily in terms of money spent, picking up centre-half Victor Lindelof from Benfica for around £30m, as well as Everton’s Romelu Lukaku for around £75m. Lindelof has been picked by 12.9% of players as of now, with 47.8% opting for United’s new number 9.
Lukaku is the main prospect here, of course, with his price set at 11.5m. He’s been a standard pick for FPL sides over the past few years, with him scoring 25 league goals last season, and 18 goals the season before that. With the chances that United create and the different element that he’ll bring to the team, Lukaku should continue to be a massive FPL asset, shaking off the Trollkaku moniker.
Lindelof has come into the game at just 5.5m, less than you’d expect for a £30m Man United centre half. He hasn’t looked too great in preseason, putting in some shaky performances, including the concession of a penalty where he booted a Real Madrid player about 3 feet into the air. With his price tag and potential, as well as his ability to play out from the back, it’s likely that he’ll start. It may be alongside Bailly, or even without him, as United prepare for two European fixtures without their Ivorian centre back, so Jose may look to form a different partnership for the time being.
The strongest rumour in terms of future signings would be Ivan Perisic. He’s a winger who loves crossing the ball, putting in more crosses than any of United’s wide players by some distance. He put in 239 crosses during the 16/17 season for Inter, compared to the 25 crosses swung in by Jesse Lingard.
He’s also a capable goalscorer, picking up 11 goals in Serie A last season for a struggling Inter side. He could help out Lukaku’s output with his crossing, while also having the potential to pick up 7-10 goals. This rumour has died down somewhat recently with Inter refusing to budge from their evaluation of the winger, and United not wanting to be fleeced. A part of this could also be down to AC Milan. They’ve got mental in this transfer window, signing half of Europe. If Inter respond by selling a key player, they may look weak, so he could well stay at the San Siro this season.
It also seems as if United are after a holding midfielder, with the likes of Nemanja Matic, Eric Dier, and Fabinho all being rumoured. While a defensive midfielder wouldn’t be the most ideal choice in fantasy football, a proper defensive minded midfielder would help provide more freedom for the likes of Herrera and Pogba, improving their FPL potential; especially for the latter of the two, who underwhelmed in terms of returns last season due to him playing in a midfield two.
In preseason, Pogba has mainly played in a two man midfield alongside Herrera, with him sitting much deeper and dictating play as opposed to making forward runs. He’s played very well by all accounts, but hasn’t been grabbing goals or assists, which is all that matters for us lot.
Formation + Predicted XI
United are somewhat hard to predict for the upcoming season in terms of formation. Last season, they generally stuck to a 4-2-3-1 with Pogba and Herrera in midfield, though their pursuit of Matic/Dier indicates a switch to a 4-3-3 to help free those two.
In their opening pre-season match, they experimented with a 3-5-2 which enabled them to have two of Rashford, Lukaku and Rashford linking together as a pair up front. They’ve also used a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. Regarding the latter, this has seen Pogba partnering Carrick or Herrera in a midfield two, limiting his forward runs.
Unless some tactical revolution takes place where goalkeepers aren’t needed, De Gea is absolutely nailed-on, as it seems as if Real Madrid are sticking with Keylor Navas as their number 1.
Valencia will start in defence regardless of formation – if they play a 3-5-2, he’ll be the right wing-back, further increasing his potential for FPL returns. Bailly is also likely to start, and it’s likely that Lindelof will as well, though he hasn’t really impressed all too much in preseason. He’s been outperformed by Phil Jones, who also did well last season when called upon.
If a back four Is deployed, it’s likely that Darmian will start the season at left back due to Shaw’s injury issues, with the Italian being first choice at the end of last season, starting the Europa League final. In a back 3, we could see Smalling or Jones taking up the third spot, with either Darmian or Blind playing as the left wing back.
In midfield, Herrera and Pogba are two of the first names on the team sheet and are absolutely nailed on.
Mata, Mkhitaryan and Martial are all likely to get plenty of time in more of a forward role, whether it be as a 10, a winger, or a striker in Martial’s case.
Lukaku will be the nailed on #9, with Rashford getting plenty of time on the wings, or up front with Lukaku/Martial if the 3-5-2 is deployed.
100% Nailed On:
De Gea, Valencia, Herrera, Pogba, Lukaku
Likely to Start:
Bailly, Lindelof, Darmian, Mkhitaryan, Martial
Smalling, Blind, Rashford, Lingard, Jones
Predicted GW1 Team (Current Players Only)
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Darmian; Herrera, Pogba; Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Lukaku
Players to Watch
Man United are set to be solid at the back this season, with the kind run of opening fixtures providing plenty of clean sheet potential.
David de Gea (5.5m) is absolutely nailed on, as mentioned earlier, with him being arguably the best keeper in the league. The Spaniard picked up 136 points last season – just 13 fewer than Tom Heaton – and claimed 14 clean sheets for the side that conceded the second fewest goals in the league.
This piece on Inferno Six covers rotating keepers and how sticking with a single top keeper may well be the way forward, as opposed to having two cheaper keepers that come in and out of the side. De Gea could be your man.
Victor Lindelof (5.5m) could be a great pick if he comes straight into the side. His preseason form so far leaves a lot to be desired, so it’s uncertain whether he’ll start against West Ham. Phil Jones (5.0m) and Chris Smalling (5.0m) also have the potential to start against at centre half after solid preseason performances.
The first choice centre back is undoubtedly Eric Bailly (6.0m). He is the most expensive of the United centre back options, but makes up for it in terms of how involved he is defensively. His aggressive nature means that he tends to rack up more blocks and tackles, which help out defenders in the bonus points system – Bailly picked up 14 bonus points last season without any goals or assists.
Bailly claims the most tackles won and does well in terms of blocks and clearances. Lindelof stands out when it comes to playing out from the back – his pass completion was better last season, and he played the most forward passes.
With the defensive minefield at Old Trafford, it’s interesting to note something which Mourinho said during United’s preseason tour:
“Bailly is suspended for the first two matches (in the Super Cup and Champions League), as you know, and I think in the next couple of days we will have the understanding of why I play Lindelof and Smalling.”
This could be the partnership going into the opening few games of the season.
With that in mind, if you’re after a United defender, you could go for the nailed-on Antonio Valencia (6.5m). He’s rather expensive at 6.5m, but with United’s defensive record and favourable fixtures, having a surefire starter – who also loves bombing down the wing and putting crosses in – could be a great shout. Valencia bagged 1 goal and 3 assists last season, as well as 12 clean sheets – totalling up to 120 points.
Compared to other similarly priced right backs in the league, it’s Walker that runs away with most key stats, though Valencia generally does well:
Things are also rather tricky in midfield. Mkhitaryan could be a fantastic option at just 8m if he can regain his form from his final season at Dortmund, though he’s been rather inconsistent for United so far. Looking at the stats of United’s attacking midfielders for last season, Mata was the most creative, with Martial having more shots on goal per 90 minutes.
Pogba – also priced at 8m – is a solid shout as he’s likely to be on direct free kicks and is absolutely nailed-on. If United sign Matic or Dier, then he’ll have much more of a free role in the side. Pogba averaged 1.9 key passes per game in the league last season, as well as 3.1 shots per game, hitting the woodwork 6 times.
Lukaku (11.5) is damn near essential at the start of this season. He’s one of the best around when it comes to putting away the lesser sides in the league, and United have a very kind run of opening fixtures. He had the fifth highest shots per game ratio last season among Premier League strikers (3 spg), as well as the fourth highest key passes per game (1.3). With improved service, we should well see another 20+ goal season from Lukaku.
If Rashford (7m) starts, whether it be alongside Lukaku or on the right-hand side, he could be a great shout. He only managed 5 goals in the league last season, though he was generally playing as a hard-working wide midfielder as opposed to a forward. He could play up front with Lukaku if United opt for a 3-at-the-back system, which could make him a bargain at just 7m.