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Best XI

Manchester United Preview

by Neal Thurman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Roster Moves

In: Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin

Out: Saidy Janko, Tom Cleverley, Ben Amos, Tom Thorpe, Angelo Henriquez, Nani, Will Keane (loan), Robin van Persie, Ben Pearson (loan), Joe Rothwell (loan), Reece James, Falcao


It has been a summer of big headlines at Old Trafford with big names going in both directions.  Robin van Persie left after one exceptional year at United and two disappointing ones.  Arriving are “next Ronaldo” Memphis Depay, German Legend Bastian Schweinsteiger, Southampton hero Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian.  And that’s just what we know about so far.  There is still a huge question about the status of David De Gea and whether he will play out his United contract this season and leave for free next summer or whether United will eventually capitulate in the high stakes game of chicken currently being played with Real Madrid over the future of the Spain number one.  Disappointing Angel di Maria is also rumored to be very close to joining Paris St. Germain as of this writing. On the inbound rumor side of things, United are also rumored to be courting Barcelona’s Pedro to add some depth to the attack lost with Falcao and RvP leaving and there’s always the possibility of a huge move on or about deadline day.

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Anders Lindegaard

Victor Valdes is technically still hanging around as well but he appears to be as good as gone after a falling out with Louis Van Gaal.  The big question here is what happens with David De Gea and when it happens.  It seems clear that De Gea will move to Real Madrid at some point but whether that is this summer, leaving United to scramble for a replacement number one, or next season when he can leave for free is the big question.  On the off chance that De Gea leaves and United can’t find the right immediate replacement picking up Romero late in drafts could pay off big.   

Defenders: Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Jonny Evans, Patrick McNair, Tyler Blackett

What is going on with the United defense? Most of the headlines have been focused on bigger names like De Gea, Depay, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger but with United failing to land a “big name” center back it appears that Louis Van Gaal is angling toward a central pairing of either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling and Daley Blind.  LVG has praised Luke Shaw’s chances of rebounding after a miserable first season at United but left back has to be considered a big question mark as well.  De Gea paved over some serious cracks at times last season and if he leaves and is only replaced by a “pretty good” keeper then United’s defense could be exposed.

Midfielders: Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Angel di Maria, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Adnan Januzaj, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira

There is a TON of talent here.  The issue, for fantasy purposes, is figuring out who will start regularly.  For the purposes of this analysis I’m going to assume that Angel di Maria is going to be leaving.  Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick form a great tandem at the base of midfield but neither is even remotely reliable when it comes to health so either draft both of them in later rounds or ignore them entirely given that their contributions are likely to be undervalued by most fantasy formats.  Morgan Schneiderlin will likely start regularly oppose whichever of Schweinsteiger or Carrick is healthy and mirror the solid-but-not-great stats he put up over the past two seasons at Southampton.  The important thing here is the attacking guys and how minutes are divided up.  If LVG plays Mata, Herrera and Depay (listed as a forward in most places) behind Rooney then Mata and Herrera are great options.  The problem comes if you draft or buy those players to their talent level and they turn out to be only half-time starters. 

Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay, Javier Hernandez, James Wilson

Wayne Rooney could be in for a huge rebound season. 12 goals and 5 assists is a down season for United’s talisman and a lot of that drop-off can be attributed to him playing out of position deep in midfield occasionally and the poor play of the rest of the midfield in getting him chances when he was playing forward.  With Schneiderlin and either Schweinsteiger or Carrick the new holding midfield Rooney should be back in the 20 goal, 10 assist range which puts him back among the top players in all fantasy formats.  That there are few other out-and-out forwards on the roster means he will get a LOT of minutes unless there is another high profile arrival at Old Trafford to challenge him for playing time. 

Memphis Depay is a tough one to figure.  He is being drafted as an immediate superstar in early summer mock drafts.  His World Cup was impressive and his Eredivisie statistics were spectacular but the Premier League player discard pile has been littered with big Eredivisie scorers over the years.  I’d be at least a little cautious about Depay in the first few rounds of drafts.  If Pedro arrives then there’s a solid chance that Depay is eased into his first season in the Premier League with 24 or so starts.  He could get between 8 and 12 goals in that role which would be a great first season for such a young player but it wouldn’t be worth a first or second round pick in your draft.

Javier Hernandez continues to feel like the proverbial man without a home.  United don’t really seem to want him but they haven’t gotten an offer they like to sell him somewhere he might be good enough to start regularly.  At this point his name is far bigger than his production so unless Rooney goes down with an injury and United haven’t purchased a solid veteran back-up Chicharito doesn’t have a great deal of value. 


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Neal Thurman

Neal Thurman manages the NBC Sports Edge's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.