Arsenal host Manchester United in the pick of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures, the two sides renewing what has been one of the division’s greatest rivalries throughout the years.
Mikel Arteta’s side have bounced back from their worst-ever start to a Premier League season and have won five of their past six, raising optimism the Gunners can close the gap and mount a challenge for continental qualification.
United have shown signs of progress this season and despite a shock defeat in midweek, they still sit second in the league, one point adrift of league leaders Manchester City ahead of this weekend’s clash at the Emirates.
Ahead of what promises to be a fascinating game, we’ve picked our best side from the players available, here is The Football Faithful’s Arsenal and Manchester United combined XI:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea – Manchester United
Amongst the most difficult selections on this team sheet, David de Gea edges Bernd Leno for the position of number one in our combined side.
De Gea has been one of the Premier League’s best shot-stoppers over the past decade and has bounced back from a difficult period to show signs of improvement this season, the Spain international having overcome competition from Dean Henderson to cement his status as first-choice.
After an inauspicious start, the 30-year-old and United have recovered well and have genuine ambitions of winning major silverware this season.
Right-back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Manchester United
Aaron Wan-Bissaka fills our right-back position ahead of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, the defensive side of the youngster’s game having been widely lauded since moving to Manchester United.
The 23-year-old’s attacking contribution remains in need of improvement, but there are few better Premier League full-backs when it comes to winning one-against-one duels against opposition wingers.
He currently ranks second in the division for tackles made and leads the Premier League for blocks, whilst he also appears capable of taking a basic throw-in, giving him the edge on serial offender Bellerin.
Centre-back: Eric Bailly – Manchester United
Perhaps a contentious pick given the lack of football the centre-back has played, but there is no doubting Manchester United have looked a more solid side with the Ivorian amongst their ranks.
Since returning from his latest injury lay-off the 26-year-old has played his part in four wins and a draw from five fixtures, keeping clean sheets against both Wolves and Burnley.
The defender’s pace and athleticism compliments the attributes of club captain Harry Maguire, and his return to prominence in recent weeks is enough to see him edge out Arsenal candidates in Rob Holding, David Luiz and Gabriel, the latter having endured a difficult period of late following a bright start to his Gunners’ career.
Centre-back: Harry Maguire – Manchester United
Harry Maguire continues to have his detractors but he remains an undisputed first choice for club and country, the centre-back having played every single minute of Manchester United’s league games since making a world-record move to Old Trafford in 2019.
The 27-year-old ranks second in the Premier League for aerials won amongst all centre-backs so far this season, whilst no player has made more interceptions and he again ranks in the division’s top 10 for progressive carrying distance and clearances.
Maguire is not without his faults and his mobility has come under question on more than one occasion, but he has improved the solidity of this Manchester United side and is a dependable figure at the heart of the defence.
Left-back: Kieran Tierney – Arsenal
Perhaps the hardest decision on the team sheet, Kieran Tierney is given our left-back position following his excellent consistency for Arsenal, with the Scotland international having been a key figure in the club’s recent resurgence.
Injuries stunted his early career at the Emirates but he has recovered to become a pivotal figure, the 23-year-old possessing a dynamic style and is strong defensively in addition to providing a forward threat.
Tierney’s reliability earns his place in our combined side but it is harsh given the form of Luke Shaw, who must surely be in the reckoning for an England recall following his performances of late, bouncing back from a difficult spell to play his best football in some time.
Midfield: Thomas Partey – Arsenal
Arsenal fans are yet to see the very best of Thomas Partey following his marquee arrival from Atletico Madrid, and will hope the midfielder’s injury problems are now behind him as they look to climb the table.
The Ghana international is a powerhouse midfield talent who covers every blade of grass, his calming presence and ability to regain possession offering a different dynamic to the Arsenal midfield.
Arteta will be hoping that the summer signing can increase in influence over the second half of the season with the Gunners a visibly better side with the athleticism and intelligence of Partey in the engine room.
Midfield: Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Just when it all appeared to be over for Paul Pogba at Manchester United, the midfielder returns to prominence with the sort of form that many have been craving for several seasons.
The France international has rarely been far from the headlines since completing a world-record move to Manchester four-and-a-half years ago, though his on-pitch performances have often left much to be desired during that time.
However, the 27-year-old is amongst the in-form players in the Premier League at present and has starred during an up-turn in form for Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s side, scoring spectacular winning goals against Fulham and Burnley and impressing with a new-found discipline and determination.
Paul Pogba came up clutch for Manchester United 💥
(🎥 via @ManUtd)pic.twitter.com/ZTBory5yhD
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 21, 2021
It’s amazing what can happen when a controversial agent is ignored and a player possessing sublime natural talent concentrates on improving both himself and his side.
See also – Five PL players hitting peak form at just the right time
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
Manchester United’s mid-season signing of Bruno Fernandes galvanised the club last season and proved the catalyst for a surge into the Champions League places, the midfielder having earned instant hero status at Old Trafford.
Fernandes has quickly become the star turn for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and one of the most influential footballers in the division, contributing an incredible 19 goals and 14 assists in just 34 league appearances.
It's been a year since Bruno Fernandes signed for Man United:
He's been directly involved in more PL goals than any other player since his debut.
Man United have picked up more points than any other club since his debut.
Game changer. pic.twitter.com/fg0UP2fERD
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 29, 2021
No midfielder has ever provided more goal involvements in a calendar year and Fernandes’ arrival could yet prove to be the defining moment of Solskjaer’s reign, a brilliant player who has relished the responsibility of becoming United’s main man.
Right-wing: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Arsenal fans have endured some disappointing days so far this season following a disastrous start to the campaign, though a shining light amongst the early doom and gloom has been the performances of Bukayo Saka.
Saka burst onto the scene last season and the academy graduate has gone from strength to strength during the current season, showcasing his wonderful technique and football intelligence by starring in a number of positions.
The 19-year-old has stepped up among a number of underwhelming showings from his senior teammates and has scored five goals for the season so far, more than every other Premier League teenager combined.
Most goals scored by a teenager in Europe’s top five leagues this season:
🏴 Bukayo Saka (5)
🇺🇸 Matthew Hoppe (5)
🇪🇸 Ansu Fati (4)
🇫🇷 Arnaud Kalimuendo (4) pic.twitter.com/F0l9S6Lu18
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 26, 2021
Arsenal secured the winger’s services on a new long-term contract during the summer and it may yet prove their best piece of business in recent years, Saka amongst the brightest prospects in English football.
Left-wing: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
It can be easy to forget that Marcus Rashford is still just 23-years-old, the forward having seemingly been around forever and making a huge impression both on and off the pitch.
Rashford announced himself in some style as a teenager and has enjoyed a fine rise in the season’s since, scoring a career-best 22 goals last season and beginning the current campaign strongly – netting 15 times in 32 appearances across all competitions.
The England international’s electric pace and dribbling ability make him perfectly suited to an inside-forward role, his best performances often coming when starting on the left and drifting into dangerous central areas.
Rashford’s game remains in need of refining and his decision-making in attacking areas can improve, but there are few attacking talents who possess his raw mix of exciting attributes.
Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s sorry season so far means the forward is hugely fortunate to earn inclusion in this side, but the previous exploits of the Arsenal captain see him selected given Anthony Martial’s tendency to underwhelm and Edinson Cavani’s lack of minutes.
Aubameyang has scored goals at a prolific rate since moving to the Emirates from Borussia Dortmund, netting 78 goals in 129 appearances across all competitions and winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot in 2018/19.
The 31-year-old starred last season after taking the captaincy and was the star figure in Arsenal’s FA Cup success, scoring match-winning doubles in the semi-final and final against Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
The Gabon international has endured a difficult start to the new campaign but remains a key figure for Arsenal as they seek to turn their season around, his two goals against Newcastle last time out offering hope he can rediscover his clinical touch.
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