Manchester City/United Combined XI – The Fans Have Their Say!
November 9, 2018
Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola. Paul Pogba vs Kevin De Bruyne. History vs the future? The Manchester derby. A city divided over the love for their clubs.
Manchester United travel to the Etihad this Sunday where they take on Pep Guardiola’s table-topping Manchester City side. Many have labelled the Spaniard’s blues as the greatest Premier League team of all time, but how many of the Red Devils would make it into their starting XI?
We asked a fan from both the red and blue side of Manchester to conjure up their combined XI.
Man United’s Fan XI
David De Gea
The best goalkeeper in the league and the world. Regardless of Ederson’s distributional qualities, De Gea’s shot-stopping abilities are just too strong to leave him out. Just like a top striker or midfielder, he wins his team points throughout the season and his importance in this current United side is unprecedented. Arguably, the Spaniard would walk into any team across the globe.
View from the blue: No arguments here. Ederson has been a revelation at City and a breath of fresh air after the whole Bravo debacle but De Gea has established himself as the best in the world over a number of years so obviously makes the list.
Alongside Joshua Kimmich and Sergio Roberto, Walker has been one of the best right-backs in Europe over the last 12 months. His pace and direct running down the right flank is something that United are lacking in their current side, where fans must endure the ever-frustrating Antonio Valencia. One of the easiest decisions in this starting XI.
View from the blue: Again, we agree. He’s got everything that a full back in Pep’s system needs; pace, power and commitment. The effect he’s had on the team is clear to see. Regardless of Walker’s form though, Valencia isn’t good enough and doesn’t get anywhere near the team for me.
After a slow start to life at the Etihad, Laporte is quickly establishing himself as one of the most consistent defenders in the division. The Frenchman possesses all the right qualities to flourish in England and his hefty price tag is finally being justified. Even with tough competitors like John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, Laporte is slowly becoming City’s most reliant defender.
View from the blue: Quickly becoming a fan favourite and it’s no mystery why. He’s already made himself pep’s go to guy in defence. His progression has been as impressive as it has been quick and definitely deserves his place on the list despite his brief time playing.
There were a few potential partners to place alongside Laporte, but as a United fan, I find it impossible to overlook Bailly. When fit, the Ivorian is arguably the club’s best defender and with his whole career ahead of him, the twenty-four-year-old has the potential to blossom into one of the best in Europe. Alongside a more composed centre-back like Laporte, Bailly would find a new level of defensive assurance when he steps forward from the backline.
View from the blue: It was a close toss up for me between him and Stones, so I can see why he’s been picked. Solid defensively and with a bit of pace about him, Bailly has enough in his game to be a main stay in that United defence for years to come.
Unlike the opposing fullback spot, the left-back position in this side is up for debate. Benjamin Mendy has impressed going forward in Guardiola’s side, but the jury is still out on his defensive capabilities – Fabian Delph looked more accomplished in this department last season. Shaw, on the other hand, possesses a much more balanced play to his game and looks to have turned his career at Old Trafford around this season.
View from the blue: I can just about get on board with this, even though I think Mendy’s ability exceeds Shaw’s. Even as a City fan I must admit that it’s good to see him finally kicking on after that horrific injury and I hope his current form translates to an England shirt.
The Midfield Trio
Anchoring the selected midfield three is inevitably Fernandinho. Despite being a big advocate of Nemanja Matic, the Serbian has started this season off slowly and in some cases, has been a liability for United in certain games. Acting as the holding midfielder for the attacking talents that either side holds is certainly not an easy task, but Fernandinho continues to maintain City’s shape so well. Despite not being the most gifted on the ball, the Brazilian’s presence on the field keeps Guardiola’s team ticking and he slots into this selected XI comfortably.
In front of Fernandinho, the two central midfielders choose themselves. Despite De Bruyne’s early season injuries, he simply cannot be left out of this side, purely due to the attacking threat that he possesses. Whether it be with goals, assists or his pinpoint crosses, the Belgian is an attacking threat everywhere across the field.
Partnering De Bruyne is the Frenchman, Paul Pogba. Regardless of what his critics try and scrape from the barrel, any manager in the world would enjoy having Pogba at their disposal. The all-rounded midfielder flourishes in an attacking system and once granted the licence to roam forward, he can be unstoppable on his day.
View from the blue: Ah, the Pogba problem. Is he a World Class talent? Yes. Is he currently playing like a world class talent though? Sometimes I think he could work a lot harder and other times I think he’s fighting against a system that doesn’t suit him. Either way the ability is there, you just feel he could do a lot more with it. I obviously have no objections to the other two names here, De Bruyne is world class and Fernandinho arguably plays the most important position in City’s system.
Inevitably, there are very few City players that I openly admire but any football fan across the world can recognise Silva’s quality. Falling under the category of ‘I wished we signed him’ players, the Spaniard would walk into most sides in Europe and certainly into United’s current starting XI.
Operating as the advanced playmaker, Silva’s distributional qualities and movement off the ball is simply left to be admired. When he’s starting, the opposition must be prepared to be defensively resilient and ready for a tough fixture, as he could find space in a crowded lift. I’d label him as the club’s greatest ever player.
View from the blue: My favourite player on the list. Never in doubt.
Personally, I was eager to put Anthony Martial in this side as he is one of the brightest attacking talents in the league. Having started this season in fine form, the Old Trafford faithful are delighted to have seen the Frenchman finally given his chance under Mourinho – an opportunity he has taken by the scruff of the neck.
However, other than the Daily Mail, the progression of Sterling over the last twelve months is evident for all too see, in which the Englishman now stands as Guardiola’s key offensive weapon. Boasting eighteen league goals to his name last season, the twenty-three-year-old has taken his game to another level, now establishing himself as a clinical finisher inside the box.
View from the blue: Agree with all of this. For me it’s his progression that’s been the best part. To go from where he was to now being such a prolific goal scorer speaks volumes of his ability. At his best, he absolutely terrifies the opposition and even on his bad days he still puts a great shift in.
A name that all United fans dread to see. If I could make any City player unavailable for the upcoming derby, Aguero would be at the top of my list, hands down. The Argentinian is one few players who consistently find a way past De Gea, gloating eight Manchester Derby goals to his name. Given his low centre of gravity and agile dribbling, defenders always have to double up on the forward as if he is granted a yard of space, he’ll make you pay.
View from the blue: I can imagine this one hurt the red side of Manchester, which makes the fact it’s indisputable that much sweeter. In the modern game we often talk about strikers who can do more than just score but, while he definitely contributes in other areas, Aguero is the epitome of a pure striker. Goals are guaranteed whenever he steps onto the pitch and there are not many players in the world, not just United, that would get picked ahead of him.
Manchester City Fan’s XI
David De Gea
As much as I love Ederson, De Gea’s consistency and importance to the United set up means I can’t leave him out. While City’s Brazilian keeper is vital to the way they play, De Gea wins United points week in, week out. In a season where United have often been second best, this is an invaluable trait. Over the years he’s grown to the best in the world at what he does, apart from maybe Manuel Neuer. Either way, he wins here as Ederson hasn’t reached his level (Yet!).
What the Red said: I thought he would be tempted to slip Ederson in there. Great to see De Gea receive some recognition though, I doubt many will debate this selection between the two.
After eight years donning sky blue, Pablo Zabaleta left a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten by City fans. As such, they were always going to be some big shoes to fill. Kyle Walker has done an excellent job though, bringing pace and power in a position that desperately needed it. During his debut season, he was sensational and made the right-back position his own. Looking at United’s options in the same role, for me, there is no comparison.
What the Red said: Hopefully Diogo Dalot will make a similar impact this season! Walker was definitely the easy choice as United possess no threat from any of their current right-back options.
The most recent addition in my XI, Laporte has quickly established himself as the first name on the team sheet for Guardiola. Pep recently called him ‘one of the best left-footed centre-backs in the world’ and on this season’s form, it’s hard to disagree with him. Confident on the ball, with a bit of pace and never afraid to stick a foot in, Laporte is showing that he can be the main man in City’s backline for years to come.
What the Red said: No arguments against Laporte as he’s been the league’s most impressive centre-half alongside Virgil Van Dijk this season. He looks like a proper ‘Guardiola defender’ and will be a key cog in this City side for some time.
The difference between the timid, mistake-prone kid who moved to City three years ago and the commanding World Cup semi-finalist is clear to see. Stones has improved immensely under Guardiola, refining his ball playing skills as well as shoring up the defensive aspect of his game. He rarely puts a foot wrong nowadays and has mastered the art of marshalling his defence, showing signs that he may be a potential Vincent Kompany replacement, both in role and position.
What the Red said: I admire Stones and his composure to bring the ball out of play. In a few years, he could easily be the captain of this City side, but he’s not quite the finished article yet. Although the same could be argued for my selection in Bailly, I think the Ivorian is currently a little more defensively assured.
Quality on the pitch and off it, Mendy spent his first season on the sidelines serving as Manchester City’s official Twitter spokesman. During that debut season, we only caught a glimpse of what the Frenchman could do, but after an extended period in the team, he truly looks the part now. Although he needs to work on the defensive side of his game, he currently offers City a different dimension to their game and look a better side with him in.
What the Red said: A left-back that can’t defend, great! Mendy is strong going forward, but Shaw’s defensive abilities pip it for me.
Quietly dependable and criminally underrated in my view, Fernandinho has been a favourite of both the managers he’s had during his time at City. Pep, in particular, has gushed about the midfielder’s ability and versatility. At the age of 33, he’s still City’s starting holding midfielder and doesn’t look like winding down anytime soon.
What the Red said: Fernandinho edges Matic this season, although City should be gearing up a long-term replacement for the Brazilian soon. He continues to be impressive, but he can’t carry on being utilised this consistently for another year.
Kevin De Bruyne
The ‘£50m Chelsea reject’ has done alright since moving to the blue side of Manchester. He seems to operate on a different level to pretty much every other player in the league. Physically fitter, mentally stronger and better in terms of ability than any of United’s midfield options, De Bruyne’s inclusion on this list is a no-brainer.
What the Red said: Quality player but Pogba is equal in terms of technical ability. De Bryune’s stats cannot be ignored, but for me, Pogba produces a similar output if you place him in this side under Pep. No arguments with his selection in this side though, a top player who cannot be ignored.
What can I say about this man that hasn’t been said before? Technically one of the best players to have ever graced the Premier League, David Silva is the face of City’s resurgence and for many, the club’s best player of all time. It’s a joy to watch El Mago effortlessly ghost past entire teams or thread that eye of the needle ball behind an opposition’s defence. And who can forget that final assist in the 6-1 demolition of United? Glorious stuff.
What the Red said: A player who simply cannot be left out. He’s a classy man both on and off the field and keeps that City midfield ticking all day long. Regardless of the other team, there aren’t many other players across Europe who keep Silva out of a combined XI.
The much-maligned Englishman has proven his haters wrong once and for all. After suffering years of abuse at the hands of fans up and down the country, Sterling has finally justified the price that City forked out for him. The winger has been involved in over 100 goals in just over 150 games and is still only 24 years old. He rightfully finds himself on this list.
What the Red said: Definitely a player who has improved drastically over the last 18 months. I wish that we saw Mourinho place a similar level of trust into his young attacking stars, as Sterling is the prime example of what can happen when your mentor believes in you. The Englishman is currently the best winger in the Premier League.
It was a close call for the LW position between Sane and Martial, but the Frenchman just edges it for me on current form. Although I don’t think he’d walk into the City team, he’s currently the only player at United that I’d genuinely consider having in the first team. Every time he plays, he’s effective, whether it be scoring goals or setting them up. It’s even more impressive to me considering that he’s fighting against a system that doesn’t fit his play style.
What the Red said: It’s nice to see Martial finally be granted some consistent starts under his belt – he has the potential to be world class. Him and Sterling in the same team has the potential to scare any opposition!
The best striker of the modern era, he just knows how to score. It doesn’t matter which foot or if it’s with his head, if you give him half a chance, he will punish you. Forget the years of prolific scoring, the trophies and plaudits, if you want to see the impact Aguero has had on English football you only have to watch one moment. That title winning goal was one of the happiest moments of my life and is something that will never, ever be forgotten.
What the Red said: No arguments here. For me, Aguero and Harry Kane are head and shoulders above the rest in the Premier League. Unfortunately, I really can’t make a case for Romelu Lukaku to be included. The Belgian struggles to make an impact on games when his side aren’t playing well, unlike Aguero, who can create a chance out of nothing.
With Manchester City sitting comfortably at the top of the table, it is of no surprise to see the blue side of Manchester dominate these combined XIs. Barring David De Gea, it seems that there aren’t too many United players that would find it easy walking into Guardiola’s dynamic City side.
Although the argument has been made for certain players, any inclusion of an outfield Red Devil player is certainly up for debate. Many city fans would certainly class the selection of Paul Pogba or Anthony Martial as controversial, particularly given the electric form of Bernado Silva and Leroy Sané.
In what is expected to be a tense and lively affair, you can pick a winner (or a stalemate!) online today. Are you backing the tika-taka revolution of Guardiola or Mourinho’s resilient Red Devils?
As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.