Friday, August 5, 2011

Notebook Preview: Manchester United

Looking back at last season
  • Averaged an incredible 2.58 GPG at Old Trafford, a full half goal more than everyone else. Their 1.53 GPG mark on the road was third behind Chelsea and Arsenal
  • Failed to score just 5 times, all of which came on the road. This just in: don't play your defenders at Old Trafford
  • With 0.63 GPG conceded at home, United had the best record in the league but yet finished behind both Chelsea (11) and City (12) in clean sheets (10). 
  • Rattled off 5 clean sheets over the final 11 gameweeks 
  • Defensive unit ranked 3rd in total points and P90 and despite their relatively high price tags managed a useful 8th ranking in P$. Aside from Evra and Vidic this unit is fairly well priced with potentially sky high reward.
  • The midfield was incredible at home averaging 5.6 P90 as a team. Only Chelsea (5.0) managed to even get into the five point range. They struggled a bit on the road (8th in P90) and thus delivered poor value when away from Old Trafford.
  • The front line also delivered outstanding value, though this time both at home and away. Top rankings in P90 at home and away along with league leading bonus totals rounded out an impressive season. P$ ranking was only 10th thanks to high prices, but this is one area where total points potential should carry more weight than value.
Predicted Lineup
de Gea (6.5m), Evra (7.0m), Vidic (8.0m), Ferdinand (6.5m), Rafael (5.5m), Young (10.0m), Fletcher (7.5m), Carrick (6.5m), Nani (10.0m), Rooney (12.0m), Hernandez (10.0m)

The lineup looks more settled than prior year though there remains question marks at right back, the centre-mid partnership and where Valencia/Young/Nani fit in. The back line has good depth but I'd venture that they are just that, with Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand entrenched in the lineup when everyone is fit. Rafael is obviously the wild card and it might be impossible to pick between him and Smalling all season but if one of the wins out, he will be extremely valuable.

I am interested how Ferguson manages his three wide players and giving each 25 games or so would really hurt Nani and Young's value. I seem to be one of the only people who have Nani as top of the depth chart with others suggesting he is third behind both Valencia and Young. I concede he is unlikely to get into the 32-36 appearance range but 30 games (same as last season) looks reasonable to me. If you do start with any of the trio, you'll need to be quick to pull the trigger on the first sign that your man is not in the chosen two.

United forwards racked up 68 games worth of minutes suggesting that it's going to be two up top the majority of the time (in terms of fantasy positions, ignoring actual tactical positioning). Berbatov looks to be increasingly forgotten making the front two look more secure by the day. Some bookies have installed Hernandez as the favourite for the Golden Boot which at 10.0m makes him a mouth watering prospect provided Ferguson unleashes him for a full season.

Safest Picks
Nani . . . took a huge step last season in terms of maturity, consistency and of course, fantasy production . . . xG of 12, xA of 23 and xP of 255 all point to a fantasy MVP . . . away production (4.8 PPG) was somewhat disappointing but his incredible home form (8.4 PPG) made up for it and it's likely you'll simply play him every week anyway so splits aren't as important . . . many feel he could slip to third choice on the wings. At worst, 76 games / 3 players (Nani, Valencia and Young) is 25 starts and I think he comes out ahead on that curve. Don't see Park as a threat and Giggs is playing an increasingly inside role . . . won't rack up 34 starts but he only had 30 last season and topped the scoring charts . . . still fairly safe among the elite players who all have their question marks

Wayne Rooney . . . tremendous balance of goals and assists: xG and xA of 17 last year . . . Berbatov seems to be frozen out making 30+ appearances a likelihood . . . on penalty duty at the end of last season . . . from GW21 on he averaged 5.8 PPG including 4 double digit performances . . . equally good at home (5.7 PPG) and away (5.8 PPG) . . . no real red flags which might distinguish him from other elite players

Patrice Evra . . . a lock to rack up substantial minutes on one of the league's best defenses . . . useful going forward but production really fell off last year (1 goal, 2 assists) . . . a notch below Baines and Cole but has top 5-10 potential at a small discount from some competitors . . . 7.0m might be a touch too far (I like Ferdinand more if he proves his fitness - see below) but a decent man to open the season with until others prove their credentials.

David de Gea . . . doesn't fit in my preferred strategy but is the best keeper in his price bracket (assuming he does actually win the #1 jersey from day one) . . . a lack of saves probably holds him below Hart but he could well be closer to Cech/Hart than whoever comes in 4th

Upside Plays
Javier Hernandez . . . 0.8 G90 ranks alongside the league's elite players . . . Berbatov appears to be losing ground on a daily basis and Hernandez's minutes should take a leap forward . . . very talented goalscorer who will score even when the team isn't playing well and should have consistent returns across the year . . . lack of assists is a concern and makes him prone to a few 2 pointers (5 out of 15 games he played 45+ minutes) . . . a young, developing player who improved as the season went on and should get better . . . already installed as the bookies' favorite for golden boot

Rafael . . . good opportunity to vastly increase minutes with Brown and O'Shea moving on . . . delivered good returns last year when he played (xP 146) but playing time was very inconsistent and hard to predict . . . seems like he should be better in attacking points than he is (1 assist last season) and the potential is clearly there . . . United conceded 1.0 GPG when he played suggesting he doesn't particularly weaken them defensively (Smalling was also 1.0) . . . will clearly lose some minutes to Smalling and Fabio but you have to think he gets the most starts and at 5.5m represents a huge discount on his teammates . . . if he plays 25+ games he could be one of the more valuable players come season end

Rio Ferdinand . . . if he proves his fitness he is under priced, but that's a big 'if' . . . at 1.5m less than Vidic, the Serbian would need to deliver at least 4 or 5 goals to deliver equal value (again taking the large assumption that playing time is equal) . . . arrival of Jones (and presence of Evans) is a threat but one which might take a while to fully develop . . . very little to contribute offensively with all his value tied up in clean sheets . . . United conceded just 0.7 GPG when he played last year . . . has featured in the pre-season so we can presume he at least starts the season in good health

No Thanks
Nemanja Vidic . . . offensive production is fueling the high price tag despite being wildly inconsistent and not particularly high in the first place . . . would need to match or exceed last year's 5 goals just to break even in P$ with Ferdinand or Evra which seems at best a 50:50 shot

Ashley Young . . . xP of 179 points last season was great with solid goal (7) and assist (11) production . . . will lose some value from bonus points now he's on a better team . . . I think he starts the season below Nani in the pecking order and might be rotated more often (this was a highly controversial suggestion which blew up my Twitter feed) . . . I need a discount to select him over last season's points champion while the likes of Van der Vaart and particularly Silva seem safer with a greater ceiling

@WB, Tot, Ars, @Bol, Che, @Sto, Nor, @Liv

On paper the Champions get the hardest defensive schedule of all with 6 teams who average more than 1.5 GPG. Liverpool (4th), Bolton (5th) and Stoke (8th) were all very good at scoring at home while West Brom (11th) really improved in that area in the second half. Arsenal were actually better on the road than at home last year while Spurs and Chelsea are never going to be an easy clean sheet. 15 clean sheets last year speaks for itself but from this fixture list, 3 would be a success.

Offensively you like the fixtures a bit more as none of the opening four teams have great defenses, though Chelsea, Stoke (at home) and Liverpool (at home) all conceded less than a goal a game last year and we have no reason to really think that they are significantly worse this year. Would this stop me locking down the likes of Rooney or Nani? Probably not, but just be mindful that the Champions might not have it all their way out of the gates.

Final Thoughts
United are always one of the trickier elite sides to select players from as they've not had too many great fantasy midfielders over the years while the defense has tended to be overpriced or over-rotated. I appear to be in the minority but I think Nani is a safe option for at least the opening stages of the season, and may venture that he will be rested more when United face tougher teams thanks to Valencia's defensive work (hat tip to @soggyboi for pointing that one out). Rooney probably has the fewest question marks of any player costing over 10.0m and while I'm not sure if I like him to be the top scorer come season end, he should at least prevent you having 10.0m+ players on the bench/sulking/playing in Spain/playing defensively.

The defense presents two good opportunities as Ferdinand (if fit) should be an every week starter (I'm not buying that Jones takes significant minutes just yet) though be ready to pull the trigger if niggly injuries creep back as they seem to lead to long spells out for him. Rafael is the highest risk/reward play and that tricky run of fixtures might give us a good chance to view the situation then hopefully bring him in for the easier games as a proven every week starter.

All the other team previews can be found here and I encourage comments below or @plfantasy. We had a great chat around Nani's potential today so get involved and you too could make me question my own team selection!


Pencer Spratt said...

Hi Chris,

Started reading your blog and your analysis is spot on. Was wondering if you were going to post a P$ with the new player price tags before the start of the season?

All the best,


Davis Rogers said...

Rafael is looking very tempting. He is growing as a player and I think Ferguson is beginning to trust him more and more. Is he player worth starting?

NotoriousDre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NotoriousDre said...

Chris, is the code on the top right of the page valid? Im trying to join the league (a memeber the past 2 seasons) but its telling me that the code is invalid.

Chris Glover said...

Matthieu - I am aiming to get all prior year stats uploaded in the next couple of days - just need to play with the formatting as I'm a bit limited using the blog template

Davis - I was high on Rafael but Smalling starting the community shield is a blow. It looks like were stuck with another season of rotation hell.

Is anyone else having trouble with the code? Have you had any joy yet Dre? Some people have joined the league but I'm not sure if they were just re-invited from last year automatically. Let me know and I'll try and fix it

NotoriousDre said...

same problem luck.

i thought i would have been invited automatically.

Im getting this message..."This is not a valid league code. Please enter another code or check the code with the league administrator."

NotoriousDre said...


Dr Abed said...

I have to the pleasure to say that Sir Alex Ferguson is one of a kind and it is less likely to witness a football manager of this calibre in the years to come.

I also have the pleasure to have bought Sir Alex house when he was Aberdeen manager where he made his move to elite.