As almost always seems to be the case, Manchester United is the fulcrum around which this week pivots. With away matches against modest-at-best opposition in Stoke and West Ham, you'd think we'd be beating down the doors to get as many Red Devils as possible in our line-ups but that's really not the case. The uncertainty over who will play for United makes selecting players from their team really difficult. We've seen Sir Alex getting games for Alex Buttner, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling at the back alongside Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra. In midfield we've seen Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa play centrally and Ashley Young, Nani, Giggs, Antonio Valencia, and to some extent Danny Welbeck play out wide. At forward we have RvP (currently on a Torres-esque goal-scoring drought - you can look it up, his current goalless streak is longer than any of Nando's dry spells), Rooney, Chicharito and Welbeck. The only certainty is David De Gea and wouldn't it just be Ferguson-like to rotate him during the double week just to piss us all off?
My point in all of the above is that there aren't really many United players who are:
a) guaranteed two matches this match week;
b) in good form; and
c) affordable enough that you'd be OK if they only started once.
Before I get to the rest of my picks, I'm going to rank order the entire group of Manchester United players for this match week based on likelihood of starting two matches, price, and expected production:
- David De Gea - He took a -5 last weekend in the derby which knocked his price down nicely. As the most likely to start twice (and do so against teams that have trouble scoring), he's #1 on my list of United players for this week.
- Phil Jones - His positional flexibility gives him a reasonable chance to start both matches SOMEWHERE and his price is low enough that you won't be too broken up if he only gets one match.
- Rio Ferdinand - With Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans, and Chris Smalling listed as injured by PhysioRoom.com with "no return date listed" we'll have to wait until Friday to confirm but it could be a good run for both Ferdinand and Jones at very reasonable prices.
- Robin van Persie - Despite the drought, he's still Robin Freakin' van Persie and he managed to put up a credible 9.5 fantasy points without scoring last weekend. It seems likely he'll start both matches for a reasonable-for-him 24.92 and he has to score one of these weeks, doesn't he?
- Wayne Rooney - He also seems likely to start both as Sir Alex looks to get United's mojo back for a strong finish after losing at home to hated rivals City. His price has dipped to 17.02 (less than Berbatov) which makes him a reasonable bargain.
- Rafael - He has generally started when healthy and by all reports he is healthy. The price is high but if you have the money it will likely return value for you.
- Danny Welbeck - With Ashley Young listed as injured and Nani seemingly out of favor we could see Welbeck (8.41) play a wide role on the left again which would be interesting from a fantasy value point of view.
- The Rest of the Midfield - There is just too little certainty as to who will play and where for me to have much interest in Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Kagawa, Cleverley, Nani and Valencia.
- Patrice Evra/Alex Buttner - Both are very expensive and it wouldn't shock me if they split the starts which would be a miserable outcome given their prices.
- RvP/Rooney/Welbeck - See above
- Dimitar Berbatov - I'm only expecting him to be good in one of the two matches but that should be enough to make him worth the money.
- Kevin Mirallas - If his injury record weren't so dismal then a lot of us would have him at a big discount going into this weekend but it is so you have to attach a small percentage chance to the possibility that he plays over the weekend and then hurts himself and doesn't play in mid-week (see what I did there?).
- Olivier Giroud - Arsenal have been playing well but he hasn't been contributing much. This means his price is down but it's definitely a risk.
- Bryan Ruiz - It's been since Match Week 20 that Ruiz had a really big fantasy match but Fulham's weekend match-up against Aston Villa is appealing and even the mid-week clash with Chelsea comes at a time when the Blues aren't exactly flying high.
- Theo Walcott - The news is that he's back from his injury layoff which is nice because his price has also dropped to a reasonable 15.53. There's a risk that he'll only get one start in an effort to protect his injury but I have a hard time seeing it given Arsenal's need for points.
- Marouane Fellaini - The man and his fro are back for the two gamer. The price is a bit high but he's pretty close to a must-have.
- Steven Pienaar - If you can't afford Fellaini then Pienaar is your back-up plan for almost 3.00 less in cost.
- Jack Wilshere - If you're looking for a Rosicky replacement at a fairly reasonable price, Wilshere should be back and is in the 7-ish range.
- Giorgos Karagounis - Taking another step down the price ladder, Karagounis is worth a two-game try if you need an enabler in midfield.
- Kevin Nolan/Jack Collison - Additional affordable options who are both likely to get two matches given the current injury issues in the Hammers' midfield. I'm not overly excited about either but with few other really exciting midfield options, it's worth mentioning.
- Phil Jones - see above
- Leighton Baines - yes, he's too expensive but if ever there was a week to dive in, this would be it.
- Rio Ferdinand - see above
- Johnny Heitinga - I'm not in love with this pick but the price is reasonable for the two games
- Laurent Koscielny - The price is very reasonable for a defender very likely to get two matches - now if Arsenal could just stop leaking random goals he'd be churning out points.
- Philippe Senderos - If he gets a CS against Villa then it almost doesn't matter what he does against Chelsea short of seeing red. Remember, Drogba doesn't play for Chelsea anymore :-)
- Rafael - see above yet again
- David de Gea - see above if you have the money
- Lukasz Fabianski - if you don't have the money
- That's about it - Jussi, Howard and Schwarzer are all way more expensive than I'd be willing to pay given the quality of their teams.