Should you back Manchester United with your Fantasy Football Team?

After Man United disposed of Queens Park Rangers in GW4 fantasy managers have been looking to get a taste of the action but how much potential is there at Old Trafford for your fantasy team?

Manchester United’s 4-0 victory over QPR took many of the headlines last weekend and has turned the heads of many fantasy managers. Angel Di Maria’s goal, assist, and maximum bonus points see’s him as the second most popular transfer this week with almost 200,000 transfers in and an ownership up to 17%. Only a hat-trick from Diego Costa keeps the Argentine off the top of the most wanted list.

We were pretty down on Di Maria’s fantasy potential a few weeks ago when he first signed for United. We want to reiterate that this does not mean we think he isn’t a world class player, or won’t greatly improve this Man united team. It means his career history of lots of assists but not so many goals doesn’t suggest a huge amount of points in Fantasy Premier League, especially when contrasted against players available to your team for less than Di Maria’s £9.5M asking price like Aaron Ramsey, Raheem Sterling, and Cesc Fabregas.

We’re not stubborn though, and historic performances only amount to so much in FPL; players step it up (and down) every season. Yaya Toure is last year’s colossal example. So, in this article we want to look at two things: Just how good were Manchester United against QPR, and how much fantasy potential was on show from the likes of D Maria and the rest of Van Gaal’s team. 

How Good Are Manchester United?

There have been four 4 goal performances so far this season and it’s perhaps no coincidence that two of these have been when QPR have been the away side. (Pelle owners can look forward to GW6). Spurs comfortably beat QPR by the same 4-0 scoreline as Manchester United so comparing these two attacking performances side buy side is a fair starting point.

  GOALS xG xGOT Shots SIB SOT
Man Unted vs QPR 4 1.9 2.8 19 12 9
Tottenham vs QPR 4 1.8 2.1 19 12 6
Chelsea vs SWA 4 2.9 2.9 29 16 9
Southampton vs NEW 4 0.7 1.8 10 6 7

Looking at the stats both United and Spurs were identical in their total attempts on goal and number of attempts in the penalty box with 19 and 12 apiece respectively. They were also near in expected goals (xG) which is a measure of a team’s expected goals based on weighting each of their shots based on typical expectation of that shot going in (determined by shot location, pass type, shot type, etc.). 

xGOT is slightly different than xG in that it only counts shots that hit the target. It’s flaw is that it ignores all shot that miss the target but it does an extra layer of “quality” to the weighting, as, with all other things being equal, the team that creates the better chances should hit the target more often.

United’s higher xGOT and higher shots on target (SOT) suggest they were indeed statistically better at thrashing QPR than Tottenham were at thrashing QPR, which of course goes along with the narrative and headlines in the media. They were also much better than Southampton in there 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle which rather flatted the Saints (xG = 0.7, xGOT = 1.8) but Chelsea must take the most credit against Swansea (xG – 2.9, xGOT = 2.9), and agaisnt a better side to boot.

What About The Players?

Share of goal and assist threat for Manchester United's players vs QPR

The above graphic shows the relative share of goal threat (xG) and assist threat (xA) for the Man United team against QPR. Note we use xG rather than xGOT for players as it’s all about getting into the right places to score rather than hitting the target, especially with such a small sample size of 1 game. For example, if RVP missed a sitter in the 6 yard box we wouldn’t want to count that as zero expected goals. The important thing was he was there in the first place.

Anyway, for goal threat it’s actually a surprise for us to see Mata where he is. Over the last three weeks we poured a little cold water on Mata’s prospects operating behind a dominate pair of centre forwards. His stats up to GW3 were mixed – he’d had one great opportunity in the 6 yard box against Sunderland (and scored) but otherwise had only 2 other unlikley efforts. Against QRP however he had 3 shots and all from central area of the penalty box. 

Van Persie and Rooney predictably follow as you’d expect from the two nominal strikers. Januzaj is always busy when he comes on, and Falcao got an opportunity too. Despite a goal though, Di Maria’s goal threat based on these stats backs up our assertion a few weeks ago that he’s not in the team to score goals. This is doubly so when you now take a look at his share of Assist Threat where he absolutely dominates and Herrera also looked impressive

We like goals at insideFPL. Fantasy football is mostly all about the goals. Assist are nice but goals are gravy. We’re looking for any midfielder to score at least 10 goals in the season for our team, and for forwards 15 to 25+ goals depending on their price, as well as a decent umber of assists (5-10) from everybody. With this in mind the only player that screams out at us from Manchester United, assuming the team can maintain this level of performance is Juan Mata. Unfortunately he looks the most likely scapegoat once Falcao demands inclusion in the starting XI. Tthis also has to dampen the prospects of the next best option currently at United – Wayne Rooney. When Falcao replaced Mata after 68 minutes against QPR, Rooney dropped back into Mata’s position and did not look as threatening. We’re going to also maintain that Di Maria is not enough of a goal scorer until he proves otherwise. One fortuitous cross-come-goal is not enough in our book and this was his only attempt agaisnt QPR  - although we'll give him the assist :)

Conclusion

In conclusion, whilst one swallow does not make a summer, United’s 4-0 scoreline over QPR did not flatter them at all; they looked business, and were still the 5th highest scoring team last season anyway, despite their woes. This term it is likely they can get back to the 70-80 goal mark. However, until we see more from Falcao, there is no clear player to go with for your fantasy team. United’s best players will all cost you a pretty penny, and at the moment their are better alternatives at other teams. The continued form of their best FPL options so far in Mata and Rooney look questionable once Falcao is established in the lineup. That being said, we would expect the Colombian to start on the bench again against Leicester, so either player could be in the points again this week. Long-term there is defnetly potential for a Mancheser United player to be a real fantasy star this season. With RVP and Falcao costing a premium though this could still be a great season for Rooney at £10.4M if he can get the kind of chances that Mata has so far in the no.10 role.

NOTE: Members who bought the BEST or ULTIMATE Pre-Season Guide packs can get now access to goal and assist threat metrics plus detailed shooting stats for all players in our members area.

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