FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – Manchester City and Manchester United

Etihad Stadium

“The Etihad, home of the champions” (CC by 2.0) by Dom Fellowes

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this seventh instalment, we’ll take a look at both of the Manchester giants, reigning champions Manchester City and José Mourinho’s Manchester United.

Manchester City – The team

Generally, each team in the Premier League will aim at performing on par or better than it did last year, but if that’s true, then what’s Manchester City going to be aiming for? Sure, they missed out on silverware in the Cups and the Champions League was somewhat of a disappointment, but in terms of the Premier League, the Cityzens were in a league of their own. They became the first team to reach the 100-point mark in a 38-match season, winning 32 of those 38 matches and scoring an unbelievable 106 goals in the process. That’s an average of 2.79 goals per game.

To make it all even more impressive, Pep Guardiola’s men broke the records and bulldozed their way to the title by playing a very attacking and entertaining kind of football, the kind of football Guardiola is after. The almost embarrassing abundance of talent that’s present throughout the squad allows City to dominate large parts of the games they play, whether it’s versus a smaller or a bigger team. Possession of the ball is key, though in the case of City it might as well be called monopoly of the ball sometimes, and Pep likes his players to put a quick, short-pass game on the mat, in which the attacking players are constantly on the move, with or without ball. The defensive players play a high line and are comfortable with the vast amount of space in their backs, because in turn it allows them to join in attack where possible and to press the opponent hard in case the ball is lost. The question is not how City will play this season, Pep’s idea is clear, but rather how to stop them.

Manchester City hasn’t lost any key players yet this summer, bar Yaya Touré if you like to consider him key, and it doesn’t look like they will, for the moment. In terms of incoming transfers, the Cityzens missed out on prime target Jorginho, but they did bring in Leicester’s star player Riyad Mahrez for a cool €67.80 million. For a rather more modest €2.50 million, City also bought young Dutch central defender Philippe Sandler from PEC Zwolle, but he’s not expected to feature in the first team this season. Things might still change drastically before the 9th of August, but City doesn’t seem keen on having any other first-team players leave, while it’s mainly rumours as far as further acquisitions are concerned.

Manchester City – Potential FPL stars

Considering many of Pep Guardiola’s players are FPL favourites already, we’ll start off by taking a quick look at the potential role of this summer’s only major acquisition, former Leicester winger and star player Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m). The Cityzens spent a whopping €67.80 million on the Algerian dribbler, which in practically any other team would mean a nailed-on starting spot. Not at City. With the likes of Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, and Kun Aguero also vying for a starting spot in attack, Mahrez will most likely be part of a long-term rotation scheme as favoured by Pep. The 27-year old is known for his dribbling ability and his rather direct approach towards the goal. If you want to get him into your FPL squad, we recommend following the City news closely, not just during the pre-season, but during the regular season as well. Marhez has had a slight injury but should be fit for today’s community shield.

After 18 goals and 15 assists in just 33 Premier League games last season, Raheem Sterling was a prime candidate for a re-classification from midfielder to forward in the official FPL game, but that didn’t happen. His price was increased (he now costs £11.0m), but he’s still classified as a midfielder and that makes him an attractive option. Add to that, that Guardiola seems to consider him one of the more rotation-proof players in his squad and Sterling’s appeal rises further. The young Englishman is often deployed as a winger and sometimes even as a false number nine, though City’s forward players tend to switch positions quite often during games as well. If he’s rested from his World Cup exploits with England this summer (he should miss the community shield match today because of this) and if he can continue his form from last season, Sterling becomes something of a must-have for FPL managers.

Like the rest of the team, City’s defence is also prone to rotation. The most secure starters for the moment seem to be Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi, while the other 2 or 3 positions seem up in the air still. Kompany, Stones, and Walker made it to the final stages of the World Cup, so they might well be rested during the first weeks of the new season. At a price of £5.5, Aymeric Laporte might therefore be an interesting option in the Manchester City defence. The 24-year Frenchman didn’t make it into his country’s World Cup-winning squad, but is highly rated by his manager, which only adds to his FPL appeal. Considering that he’s also considerably cheaper than the likes of Walker,  Otamendi and even Mendy, Laporte might be an ideal way into City’s defence. As goes for more players, keep an eye out on the Man City team news in the run-up to the first gameweek.

Manchester United – The team

Despite a lack of silverware last season, José Mourinho’s Manchester United didn’t have a bad season last year. They finished second in the league, which, considering Man City’s form, was the best they could hope for last season, while the Reds also reached the final of the FA Cup, which they eventually lost to Chelsea. Their Champions League adventure ended early, due to a painful defeat to Spanish side Sevilla in the round of 16.

More than the actual results, it was United’s way of playing that was criticized, heavily at times. José Mourinho is a tactician who is known for his defensive approach to games, focusing more on defusing the opponent’s weapons than optimising the use of his own. As a result, the Mancunians conceded just 28 goals last season, which was just 1 more than eventual champions Manchester City. In reality, this is an excellent foundation for a successful team and Mourinho is expected to deploy the same tactics this season, starting from a defensive and organization-minded 4-2-3-1 formation.

In terms of incoming and outgoing key players, Manchester United has sold Daley Blind to Ajax, though the Dutchman’s role had diminished considerably over the past season. The retirement of leading figure Michael Carrick is more significant in that sense, though United is not expected too suffer too much as a result of it. One of the main reasons for that is the acquisition of central midfielder Fred from Shaktar Donetsk for €59 million. United’s other major incoming transfer was Portuguese right-back Diogo Dalot, who was bought from Porto for €22 million. The club wasn’t yet involved in any other major transfers this summer, though it’s possible there will still be interesting developments over the coming few days. Mourinho hasn’t missed an opportunity during pre-season to show his discontent regarding the current squad and United’s relatively calm approach towards the transfer market.

Manchester United – Potential FPL stars

It’s not much of a revelation or a differential, but if you’re considering Manchester United players for your FPL squad, goalkeeper David de Gea has to be on top of your list. The Spanish goalkeeper had an unfortunate World Cup in Russia, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, and in the world. He ended the last FPL season as best goalkeeper in the game (172 points) as a result of an impressive 19 clean sheets in 38 games and countless bonus points. Unsurprisingly, De Gea is the most expensive goalkeeper in FPL this season (£6.0), but bringing him into your squad means bringing in a defensive asset on which you can count for the rest of the season.

In the midfield, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Paul Pogba will manifest himself after winning the World Cup with France. The French midfielder allegedly wasn’t always on the best terms with Mourinho last season and his performances were often criticized. Despite all that, Pogba still managed to score 6 goals and provide a pretty impressive 13 assists, which resulted in a total of 138 points in FPL. In the French national team this summer, Pogba played in a more advanced role and showed glimpses of the player that convinced United to pay €105 million for him in 2016. The question is whether Mourinho sees it the same way and is ready to adjust Pogba’s role in order to benefit more from his undeniable (attacking) qualities. Pay attention to the pre-season (also because Pogba might be rested for a gameweek or two at the beginning), because at £8.0m, he could be a steal.

Up front, choices are scarce, but clear. Belgian World Cup semi-finalist Romelu Lukaku is the undisputed number nine of the Reds. The big forward fits Mourinho’s playing style perfectly, as he weighs on defences and can hold up the ball when necessary, for example to set up a counter-attack. With 16 goals, 7 assists, and a total of 162 FPL points, Lukaku had a decent 2018/19 season, but he’ll be wanting to improve those stats this year. Especially against top-6 opposition, he has largely failed to make his mark, so it’ll be interesting to see how the 25-year will fare this season. Note that, like Pogba, he might miss one or two gameweeks in the beginning, as a result of a short break after the World Cup, but if he can manage to replicate (or even improve) his form of last season, his €11.0m price tag is justified.