Manchester XI: Evra and Nasri in but who misses out?

Manchester United meet rivals Manchester City in a hotly-anticipated derby this evening, with the visitors looking to strengthen their title credentials.

Manchester United take on their city rivals this evening as the underdogs for the first time ever in the Premier League era, with Manuel Pellegrini's side hunting fellow pacesetters Chelsea and Liverpool in pursuit of the Premier League title.

City have three games in hand on leaders Chelsea and two on the Reds, the first of which comes tonight at Old Trafford, where three points would support the claims of Pellegrini and midfielder Fernandinho that the Blue half of Manchester has taken over the Red side.

United fans will rightly point to their illustrious history of trophies and dominance, but right now City have the bragging rights, particularly after the 4-1 win at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season.

A win at the home of the reigning champions, who have relinquished their crown in embarrassing fashion, would be the first time City have won three consecutive victories at their neighbours' home in 40 years and would plunge United further into crisis.

So, with that all in mind, what is the current best Manchester XI when you combine the two squads?...

Joe Hart - A difficult choice from the outset, with the Manchester City keeper enduring some indifferent form this season which resulted in demotion and Costel Pantilimon stepping in to replace him.

But Hart's absence evidently played its part in some of City's defensive failings and both he and the club have benefited from his spell on the sidelines, with Hart seeming more in command of his defence than ever before.

David de Gea has had a commendable season despite his side's plight but it has been difficult to gauge just how well he has performed on the whole, given his defence's ineptitude. His stunning recent save from Luis Suarez in the 3-0 reverse to Liverpool made this decision a close one.

Pablo Zabaleta - Perhaps one of the easiest choices on the team sheet, this, with Zabaleta providing a professional and reliable figurehead in a backline which has proven occasionally vulnerable this season.

The Argentine combines athleticism with the spirit and battle-hardened qualities required to be a hit at Eastlands and while not always spectacular, he is the bastion of steadiness in the right-back role.

Manchester United's troubles in the position are epitomised best by the rotation of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Rafael at right-back, none of whom have managed to impress.

Vincent Kompany - Has come under some murmurs of criticism in recent times for, at least at his sky-high standards, some sloppy displays.

His gaffe at Hull City, which led to a red card for hauling down Nikica Jelavic, was born out of an over-confidence in his ability on the ball, which led to the Croat nipping in, robbing the Belgian of possession before being checked back.

The paucity of competition in this area from the United centre halves, however, means Kompany is out on his own for this position.

Martin Demichelis - The other central defensive berth was far trickier to fill, particularly given the struggles of United's defenders but also in the one position considered something of a weak spot at Manchester City.

It was no coincidence that they were so extensively linked with a move for Eliaquim Mangala on deadline day and Demichelis has been culpable for some shocking errors, namely in the Champions League against Barcelona and the surprise defeat to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup. 

The Argentine struggles with pace but, akin to Per Mertesacker, is a good reader of the game and is comfortable in possession. Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans push him close but the former's impending departure and loss of form, coupled with the latter's injury problems, ensure Demichelis secures the post.

Patrice Evra - United finally have a player in the XI and this one ought to be equally as undisputed as Zabaleta's inclusion. 

Evra has enjoyed something of a renaissance at left-back for United and his marauding runs down the left have been matched with a defensive responsibility shown only in glimpses by City's more cavalier left-sided defensive duo.

The Frenchman's international deputy Gaël Clichy has proven a liability defensively at times while Aleksandar Kolarov's stock is still heavily debated amongst City supporters. If any of the United stalwarts deserves to stay, it is Evra.

Yaya Toure - The Ivorian is another who has to be a shoe-in for this XI. His hat-trick at the weekend in the 5-0 drubbing of a sorry Fulham side has even seen him surpass team-mate Sergio Agüero in the goalscoring stakes with Toure now the third-highest scorer in the division.

He has been City's best player by some distance once again this term and is starting to bring a consistency to his game that was sometimes previously lacking.

With Michael Carrick not the force of old, Marouane Fellaini experiencing teething problems in his debut season at Old Trafford and Tom Cleverley becoming more famous for a petition against his place in the England squad.

Fernandinho - The Brazilian was possibly the key signing during the summer from Pellegrini, who also brought in Demichelis, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo.

While the four others have contributed in differing amounts, the latter more than most, Fernandinho has been the sole constant of the new acquisitions and has given Toure a solid defensive shield in which he can charge forward in front of without leaving sizeable gaps behind him.

He could be one of the central reasons behind City winning the league if they do go on to grab a second Premier League title, having liberated Toure and others further up the field.

David Silva - The Spaniard has been elegant all season long, but the devastating contributions of the title-winning campaign from two seasons ago have been in shorter supply than Pellegrini would have desired.

His quality cannot be questioned, flick back to the win over Hull where his spellbinding left-footed effort, coupled with an equally exquisite assist for Edin Dzeko's goal late on at the KC Stadium.

The intermittency of it threatens to allow the likes of Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata a sniff at a place in the XI but Silva has proven far more consistent this year.

Wayne Rooney - Manchester United fans, do not fear, this team will not be entirely dedicated to Manchester City players.

Rooney's two-goal salvo at the weekend helped to silence any doubters who questioned the logic of handing the 28-year-old a new bumper £300,000-a-week deal and proved there is still fire in his belly for the challenge ahead of restoring United to their past successes.

Negredo and Robin van Persie can both stake claims for a spot in the XI but Rooney, who has 10 assists this season (only one less than Luis Suarez), has been the sole reason United remain even rank outsiders for a place in Europe next term. 

Samir Nasri - The Frenchman may prove another surprise choice to some when you account for his mixed form since arriving at the Etihad Stadium but he has been a revelation for Pellegrini this year, combining his creative instincts with a cutting edge in front of goal.

It is difficult to assess how Mata has fared at United, given David Moyes' inclination to play him out of position, but the fact he seldom played at Chelsea during the opening half of the season, combined with Januzaj's inconsistency means Nasri gets the nod.

He is finally beginning to show the form towards the end of his Arsenal career that convinced City to shell out north of £20m for his signature. 

Sergio Agüero - The Argentinian has been frustrated by injury problems this season which have served to hamper his progress and his influence on a City side who just do not look the same juggernaut of an attacking force without him in the side.

Agüero was the third-highest scorer in the top flight until Yaya Toure came in and seized the position with some stunning goalscoring form but his return could be timely in helping City to re-establish their title advantage.

His nous for digging goals out of nowhere is invaluable to a City side whose attacking play can become predictable and one-dimensional when tasked with breaking down defences with a steely resolve.

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