Manchester United Defensive revival

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Manchester United’s defensive revival, featuring Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.

Sunday evening? Blunt, boring and maybe slightly unfortunate. Yet, I won’t complain as Manchester United have not conceded in 4 of their last 6 competitive matches and the clean sheet at Anfield was David De Gea’s 150th for United.

The conservative approach by Solksjaer limited The Reds to only 3 shots on target. It still seems too early to say if United can mount a serious title challenge, but I remain hopeful given our recent defensive improvements. As an old football saying goes, attack wins you football matches, defence wins titles.

Considering a kind fixture run coming up, it could also be the perfect time to invest in Manchester United defence in FPL…

Building from the back

Man United have struggled offensively against their fierce rivals, with Bruno Fernandes and Rashford in particular having a bad day at the office. I am convinced that United would lost that match a year ago with that kind of form in front of goal; thankfully, the defensive formation stepped up once again.

After the Tottenham fiasco in Gameweek 4, Manchester United have kept clean sheets against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and now Liverpool. The devastating loss at home to Mourinho’s men has definitely sparked a sense of pragmatism in Solksjaer, especially in crucial games.

Since the infamous loss to Spurs, Man United hold the third best Minutes per Expected Goals Conceded ratio in the Premier League, only behind Manchester City and Chelsea:

Data from members section of Fantasy Football Sc

I wouldn’t be able to write about the upturn of our defensive form without mentioning Harry Maguire. The club captain was certainly not quite himself at the start of the season, with all the speculation about the Greek incident floating around. However, in recent months the former Leicester man has been a stalwart in our defence.

Almost 2 years after signing for United, the 80 million pounds fee paid for Maguire still hangs just above his head whenever he he is talked about, which for me is both unfair and lazy.

Not only does he dominate the penalty areas on both ends of the pitch in a way we haven’t seen at this club for years, organizes the backline and brings the ball out of the defence almost effortlessly. He is also *the* player Solksjaer can always rely on in terms of fitness;  a true dream come true for any manager.

Maguire has played more minutes of professional football than any other player in the world in the 2020 calendar year. His availability alone is worth millions, but is hardly ever talked about, even by Manchester United fans; which seems strange, given the fitness issues van Gaal and Mourinho had to go through with the likes of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly.

The England international is the definition of „nailed”; but that’s not the only quality that could make him an interesting FPL pick.

Maguire leads the charts for goal attempts, shots on target and shots from inside of the box among all Premier League defenders this season:

Data from members section of Fantasy Football Sc

Also, given Bailly’s impressive form since coming back to the team, Solskjaer is now able to rotate between the Ivorian and the Swedish international depending on opposition, which should increase the chances of clean sheets week in, week out.

Shaw must go on

Manchester United had an active summer transfer window, signing the likes of Cavani, Diallo, van de Beek and Telles.

The Brazilian international was brought to provide competition to Luke Shaw, and the Englishman hasn’t put a foot wrong when under pressure of the new signing.

His bursting runs forward, intelligent passes from the back and impressive defensive play caught many viewers’ eyes during the Sunday encounter. It was like the Luke Shaw of old; before he suffered a horror injury against Dutch side PSV.

It is looking increasingly likely that Solskjaer’s main focus this season will be maintaining a top 3 position in the league, meaning we should expect him to field his strongest XI in nearly all Premier League matches. Meanwhile, the Norwegian is likely to rotate his squad for the cup games.

Even with the competition from Telles, I expect Shaw to keep his place for the league matches, which makes him an exciting proposition for Fantasy managers.

Not only does he pass the eye-test, but is also backed by statistics. Over the last 4 weeks, no defender created more chances than Luke Shaw:

Data from members section of Fantasy Football Scout

Conclusion

With the Liverpool match now out of the way, Manchester United are looking at a sea of „green” fixtures in the upcoming weeks.

Solksjaer’s men face Newcastle United, Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion in 3 of the next 6. Also, while the matches against Everton, Arsenal and Southampton could be trickier, I am optimistic with our defensive revival about our chances of keeping 3-4 clean sheets in the next 6 Gameweeks given the underlying defensive numbers.

Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, barring any injuries, should be omnipresent in Solksjaer’s league XIs and can offer good value for money, as they are a threat going forward and cost 5.4m and 4.8m, respectively – playing for the 3rd best defence in the Premier League.

Manchester United season summary, data taken from our stats page here: https://jumpersforgoalposts.info/20-21-interactive-stats/

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