Finishing first and second in the Premier League over the past two seasons, Manchester United and Manchester City have moved ahead of the rest in England, but which players from the two sides make a combined team?
Here are the players, lining up in an admittedly top-heavy 4-2-2-2 formation.
Goalkeeper - David De Gea
An early controversial pick, De Gea gets the nod over Hart after producing a fine season despite being under almost unbelievable pressure at Manchester United. Meanwhile Hart, who generally escapes similar criticism for his mistakes, has made several costly errors for Manchester City.
Right-back - Pablo Zabaleta
Rafael has had an excellent year, but Zabaleta has been the stand out right-back in the Premier League and is a shoe-in for a combined Manchester eleven.
Left-back - Patrice Evra
Last season it looked like the Frenchman might be finished at Old Trafford, but he has been a key part of Manchester United’s team this season, both defensively and going forward to cover for their lacklustre wingers.
Centre-backs - Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany
Kompany’s young team-mate Matija Nastasic pushes him close for a place in the team, but the Belgian, whilst not as effective as last season, is still the clear leader in City’s back-line. Meanwhile Ferdinand has produced a superb season at the heart of a changeable United defence.
Central midfield - Michael Carrick and Yaya Toure
Both Manchester sides have missed something in their midfields this season, and it would seem that each have the perfect solution for the other’s problems. Toure’ physical presence and power on the ball would be ideal in United’s sometimes lightweight midfield, whilst having Carrick providing City’s attack with ammunition could have seen them fire their way to the title. Both are clear choices for the combined team.
Attacking midfield - Wayne Rooney and David Silva
For all the furore about Rooney’s future, it is worth noting that he scored 12 and set up ten goals for Manchester United in 27 appearances. Rooney might have had some fitness issues, and perhaps was distracted by off the field issues, but he is still an excellent player. Silva has not been able to find the form that set City up for the title last year, but even when not at his best he is a formidable player, and the key man in his team’s attacking play.
Strikers - Robin van Persie and Sergio Aguero
Van Persie’s move to Old Trafford rather than the Eithad last summer might have been decisive in the title race, with the Dutchman scoring 26 times in his debut season for Manchester United. Aguero was another City man unable to capture their best form this year, but twelve goals in an injury hit season is not an awful return, and he showed his class with the winner against United at Old Trafford.
image: © Andrea Sartorati