Manchester City and Manchester United occupy the top two spots in the Premier League this season and have proven themselves to be the best two teams in the country so far.
With all of the talent the two have to boast, who would make a combined team of the players available for this weekend’s derby?
Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)
The Manchester United goalkeeper proved in his side’s 3-1 victory over Arsenal once again why he’s one of the best in the Premier League at keeping the ball out of the net. While Ederson has been a revelation for City this season, he’s still very new in his career in England and hasn’t been tested as regularly as his Spanish counterpart. De Gea may not be as good with his feet as the City man, but he’s got a proven track record of pulling off match-winning saves when his side really needs it.
Right-back: Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Walker has given City so much more impetus down the right flank. An orthodox right-back, unlike Antonio Valencia who’s developed into the role over the last few years, Walker is more mobile and more able to do both the defensive and attacking roles expected of him in this position. His delivery from wide areas is often criticised, but it’s been an important part of City creating chances this season.
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The Belgian has injury issues, that’s no secret. However, when he’s fit and available, he’s one of the best defenders in the Premier League. He can organise the backline and bring calm to his defensive colleagues when everybody else is losing their heads under pressure. Good on the ball and able to play from the back, he’s more consistent than his United counterparts … when he’s fit.
Centre-back: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
If this combined XI was written just six months ago, the Argentinian wouldn’t have got near the team. However, under Guardiola’s tutelage, he’s developed into a much calmer and more rational defender. His partnerships with both Kompany and John Stones have been solid and his decision-making has improved to the point where he’s been more consistent that others who could have made this team.
Left-back: Ashley Young (Manchester United)
This is a pick based on current form. With Fabian Delph a doubt for the derby after missing the 2-1 defeat in Shakhtar through sickness and with the United winger-turned-full-back finding his feet offensively in recent weeks — capped by a couple of goals in a 4-2 win at Watford — Young just edges ahead of his rivals for the position. However, it would be a very different story if Benjamin Mendy wasn’t sidelined with a knee ligament injury.
Centre-midfield: Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Guardiola rested the Brazilian so he wouldn’t pick up a yellow card and a suspension for the trip to Old Trafford for a reason. One of the most underrated performers of the Guardiola era at City, Fernandinho has proved himself adept at breaking up attacks and getting the ball forward quickly. His awareness of when to press and when to drop off has cut out opposition breakaways and kept City on the front foot — something that’s not been as key in Nemanja Matic or Marouane Fellaini’s seasons so far.
Centre-midfield: David Silva (Manchester City)
One of the elder statesmen of City’s team, the Spaniard is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches his 32nd birthday. Still the creative heartbeat of the league leaders, he’s proven to be more consistent as a playmaker than Juan Mata and City have been a much weaker team when he’s not been on the pitch.
Right-forward: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
After a stunning transformation in Guardiola’s City, Sterling is looking like one of the Premier League players of the season. When City have needed a goal in a tight game, the winger has been the one who has delivered the goods. He’s been terrifying opposition defenders breaking with the ball and his positional awareness has improved so much that he’s finding space in tight areas in the box. Nobody from United — or any other top flight team — has been more dangerous than Sterling this term.
Attacking-midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Every time City have scored a goal this season, the Belgian has been involved in one way or another. Whether he’s found the net with a thumping drive, slipped the ball through for someone else to finish, or played the pass that unlocked the opposition’s defence, De Bruyne has been one of the leading lights of the season. It’s impossible for him not to feature in any combined XI involving City just for how key he’s been.
Left-forward: Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
As good as Leroy Sane has been in City’s barnstorming attacks this season, he’s been pipped by Martial’s influence at Old Trafford this campaign. Sane is looking a little tired in recent weeks and has been less able to go past his man and deliver a cross into a packed area, while the Frenchman has been a regular threat in front of goal. Both have found the net eight times, but Sane’s have come in clumps rather than consistent across the season so far.
Striker: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Romelu Lukaku is having a torrid time in front of goal at the moment (cue him scoring at Old Trafford on Sunday) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is only just back from a long injury lay-off. So while Aguero is struggling a little for form, he’s a must-pick for the centre-forward role. Throughout his City career he’s showcased a range of finishing — smashing a long range effort in, headers, volleys, acrobatic strikes, tap-ins, penalties — and that makes him impossible to overlook.
David Mooney is ESPN FC’s Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney