Team Preview: Manchester United

General Overview

  • Expected formation: 4-2-3-1
  • Expected line-up: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones (Lindelöf to be worked in gradually), Darmian; Matic, Herrera; Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Rashford; Lukaku
  • Penalties: Lukaku, Mata, Pogba, Martial
  • Direct free kicks: Pogba, Mata, Lindelöf
  • Indirect free kicks and Corners: Mata, Herrera, Blind, Young
  • Opening fixtures: WHU (H), Swa (A), LEI (H), Sto (A), EVE (H), Sou (A), PAL (H), Liv (A), Hud (A), TOT (H)

With some big players coming and going this summer, United look likely to improve on last seasons tally of 69 points and may even challenge for the title this time round.

The first five fixtures look very kind on paper and the fact that Mourinho has won the league in his second season at every major club he has managed, tells me there’s big things happening at the theatre of dreams this season.

So lets have a look at some of our FPL options…

Romelu Lukaku (£11.5m): A Word Of Caution

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The Belgian powerhouse will be Uniteds main man up front this season, following his £75m move from Everton this summer.

With the likes of Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata providing the creative support this season, he looks set, on paper, to achieve similar to his huge FPL points total last year of 221, if not bettering it – this points tally came from 25 goals and 6 assists. 

The notion that, ‘he’s now in a better team surrounded by more creative players, therefore he will beat last years total points tally’ might make sense on the face of it, but is it really as simple as that?

My only concern, is Mourinho’s somewhat negative tactics. Last season, on many occasions, United would go hell for leather to get the lead, which resulted in a lot of chances created, but when the lead was established, they failed to take the initiative and kill the game with a second goal by dropping down to a slow-tempo, controlled style – the end result? A lot of extremely frustrating low-scoring draws for their fans.

Last year, it seemed like Mourinho wanted to win games 1/2-0, where as City and Spurs were much more fluid in their attacking play and wanted to score and keep scoring. Man United scored 54 goals last season – in comparison to Spurs (86) and Man City (80) – which was even a lower goal-scoring tally than Bournemouth (55).

If Mourinho continues to employ this controlled and tactical philosophy, it does perhaps turn Lukaku into a Diego Costa type asset, in the sense that; you’re getting solid, consistent returns over the course of the whole season, but perhaps not the explosive, captain-worthy returns that Kane and Agüero/Jesus could provide and have provided.

Paul Pogba (£8.0m)

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Having frustrated a lot of FPL managers last season, the signing of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea’s engine room, should allow Uniteds record signing to either be positioned further up the pitch, or to be given a roaming playmaker type role, rather than the deep-lying playmaker role he had last season, where he was prohibited somewhat to get forward on a regular basis.

Having tallied only 115 points from 5 goals and 4 assists last season, he will surely surpass that total this time around with the expected freedom he may be given to get forward and contribute greater to the United attack with the introduction of powerhouse and defensive safety net, Matic.

The French man hit the woodwork 6 times last season, which that tells me he was unlucky not to get a larger hoard for FPL managers last campaign. He’s also on direct free kicks – one of those 6 times was a lovely curling free kick from 25 yards, that struck the bar in match v Spurs.

He’s also the most nailed of the United midfield, with Mkhitaryan likely to rotate with Mata and potentially Lingard too.

The Defence

Victor Lindelöf (£5.5m) promises to be a great signing from Benfica, but with some dubious pre-season performances and given the latest comments by Mourinho, I urge caution on starting with the Swede, as there are safer options available:

“He needs time. We are going to give him his time. Such a young player needs time.” said Mourinho.

“Manchester United is a huge club, huge responsibility. The Premier League is the same so let’s give him time but I’m happy with what he’s doing step-by-step.”

(ManchesterEveningNews)

This makes us turn our heads to the safer bets within the United defence and the best asset is perhaps Valencia (£6.5m). No danger of not starting here and with him possessing the natural attributes of a typical winger from his earlier days as a right winger, he could be a great asset to have with Lukaku to aim for.

Even though Zlatan was a big target for United, he liked to drop deep to link the play up and perhaps wouldn’t get in the box as much as Lukaku, to finish off headed chances.

If £6.5m is out of your range budget wise, then perhaps Bailly (£6.0m) could be your man. Whilst he doesn’t possess the attacking threat you would want of a £6.0m priced defender, he does do very well with the BPS system, down to his CBI performance, and is nailed in the team.

If thats still too much, then you only have one option – David De Gea (£5.5m).

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With the transfer to Madrid dead in the water, the Spaniard now seems the safe and cheapest way into the United defence. The one thing we can count on when it comes to Mourinho teams, is clean sheets and with 136 points last term (4th highest goalkeeper tally) David looks likely to improve that score as the team push to improve on a poor 2016-17 domestic performance.

Conclusion

United’s opening fixtures make great reading and warrants investment.

Lukaku is the obvious choice here, but considering Mourinho’s style, is the hefty price tag of £11.5m worth it if you’re looking at 6-8 points each time he has a favourable fixture? Because this is what I’m envisaging from Lukaku, based on the way Mourinho had United playing last season and it’s difficult to take too much from the Super Cup, as Madrid dominated the majority of the game.

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For that money, I want someone who has the potential to explode and in the current Mourinho set up, whilst Lukaku is the lead man, there’s no evidence yet to suggest that he can explode in this United team, where as there is plenty to suggest that players like Kane/Agüero/Jesus could explode in their teams, making them better captain choices in my personal opinion.

I’m not saying that you should go without Lukaku, or that Lukaku hasn’t got the ability to explode, merely stating what we currently factually know about the way United play under Mourinho – this limits his appeal in my mind when compared to Kane/Jesus/Agüero.

Irregardless of that, it’s my personal observation and given the fixtures, his huge ownership (48.7%) and his past performances for Everton, all make him an extremely difficult player to turn down – perhaps only for those FPL managers with a strong disposition.

Elsewhere, I would only consider Pogba from the midfield down to the strength in depth United have, but only if Pogba’s role is more attacking. Mourinho will make use of the quality that sits on his bench and rotation will be apparent throughout the season, mainly in the left and right wing positions.

In defence, whilst I’m normally a strong advocate of rotating cheap goalkeepers and pushing the funds up the pitch where it matters most, the annoying situation in defence at United (Lindelöf being potentially worked in slowly, Darmian v Blind) makes it difficult and means that De Gea is possibly the best way into the United defence.

If you can afford it however, I do think Valencia will have a good season and with Lukaku there now looking to get on the end of crosses, should be picking up a decent total of assists – he would be my personal choice from the United defence.

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