Chelsea meet Manchester United in the Premier League this weekend in a huge clash, the greater pressure on the fifth-placed Blues who sit just outside the Champions League places.
Thomas Tuchel has made an impressive start to his reign in west London and Chelsea will head into the contest in confident mood following a midweek win over Atletico Madrid, though face a difficult test against a Red Devils team unbeaten away from home in the Premier League for over a year.
As always a huge clash in the Premier League can only mean one thing, trying to cram in the best players from each side into a hypothetical combined XI.
Taking form, fitness and ability into account, we’ve done our best to build a dream side ahead of Sunday’s showdown, here is the Football Faithful’s Chelsea v Manchester United combined XI:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea – Manchester United
A difficult decision and perhaps not for the right reasons, the previous exploits of David de Gea can only earn him credit in the bank for so long as his performances continue to be mixed.
De Gea’s position has come under threat following the return of loanee Dean Henderson last summer, though the 30-year-old has done just enough to maintain his first choice status and edge out Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy in our combined side.
At his finest, De Gea is a goalkeeper who produces incredible moments of athleticism and lightning reflexes, his previous exploits – including being named in the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions winning the Red Devils’ Player of the Year award a record four times – ensuring he remains regarded as one of the Premier League’s best shot-stoppers of the past decade.
Criticism persists over his form and ability to command his penalty box, however, and his selection here is only narrowly over Mendy who has unquestionably been an upgrade on Chelsea’s previous goalkeeping options.
Right-back: Cesar Azpiliciueta – Chelsea
Chelsea’s dependable club captain earns our position at right-back ahead of the emerging Aaron Wan-Bissaka and teammate Reece James, the experienced star a model of consistency throughout his time at Stamford Bridge.
The Spanish star is solid defensively and possesses the versatility to thrive in a variety of roles across the backline, featuring once again as part of a back three since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival as Chelsea manager.
Wan-Bissaka and James have both shown progress this season but remain far from the finished article, the duo part of an emerging contingent of English right-backs in a position of great depth for the Three Lions.
Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger – Chelsea
Antonio Rudiger’s career at Chelsea appeared all but over after falling out-of-favour under Frank Lampard, struggling for opportunities throughout the early months of the season before being handed a fresh chance by compatriot Tuchel.
The Germany international has started each of Tuchel’s six league fixtures in charge of the Blues, helping Chelsea to five clean sheets with the west Londoners having made an unbeaten start under the new head coach.
After seemingly heading towards the exit door the 27-year-old has quickly made himself a key figure in the early stages of a new era, with the centre-back’s relishing of physical duels and reading of the game adding solidity to Chelsea’s back three.
Rudiger’s 78.6% of aerial duels won ranks him second amongst all Premier League players, behind only teammate Kurt Zouma.
Centre-back: Harry Maguire – Manchester United
Manchester United‘s club captain partners Rudiger in our combined centre-back pairing, despite his performances having been hugely scrutinised since an £80m world-record move from Leicester in 2019.
Maguire’s flaws are regularly used against him but the England international is a leading defender in several metrics, ranking second in the division for interceptions and second amongst all centre-backs for aerials won per game.
The 27-year-old is also amongst the Premier League’s leaders for clearances and progressive carrying distance, the latter statistic highlighting the defender’s comfortability when stepping forward in possession.
Left-back: Luke Shaw – Manchester United
Luke Shaw stands as one of the most improved players of the Premier League season with the full-back having been a model of consistency for Manchester United this season, his return to form and fitness a welcome sight following an indifferent period with the Red Devils.
No full-back in the division has created more chances this season than the 25-year-old, whilst he leads the Premier League for key passes in 2021 with his running power and delivery having become a major asset to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Most chances created by a full back in the Premier League this season:
🥇 Luke Shaw: 44
🥈 Andy Robertson: 41
🥉 Trent Alexander-Arnold: 36 pic.twitter.com/p9cxfWQHWq
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) February 22, 2021
Shaw is a shoo-in for this side on current form and looks capable of moving ahead of Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell as England’s first-choice left-back ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
Midfield: N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
Kante’s credentials are unrivalled by any of the defensive midfielders in either squad after winning two league titles, the World Cup and the PFA Player of the Year amongst his honours, his energy and hard-running providing a brilliant screen in front of the backline.
Played further forward in recent campaigns, the France international has shown he can influence proceedings in both boxes, though his finest work undoubtedly comes when regaining possession and shutting down opposition attacks.
Tuchel has swiftly recognised the importance of the 29-year-old and what he can bring to his side, expressing his delight to be working alongside the all-action midfielder on a number of occasion after previously admiring his performances from afar.
Midfield: Mason Mount – Chelsea
Mason Mount’s upward trajectory has continued this season with the midfielder growing in influence and importance at Chelsea, the 22-year-old now one of the first names on the team sheet for the west London side.
The academy graduate has featured in a variety of roles and performed consistently, his high energy style mixed with a technical quality that helps provide a cutting edge in the final third.
Mason Mount 🤤🤤🤤 pic.twitter.com/adTpV2ftrA
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 20, 2021
Just two players – Bruno Fernandes and Jack Grealish – have managed more key passes in the Premier League this season and Mount appears to be improving with each passing performance as the home-grown heartbeat of this Chelsea side.
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
The first name on the team sheet, Bruno Fernandes’ impact at Manchester United has been nothing short of sensational since his winter window arrival from Sporting Lisbon last year.
Rarely has a signing transformed a team to such effect with the midfielder having taken on talismanic status for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, posting quite frankly ridiculous numbers when it comes to goal contributions.
No player in the division has been directly involved in more goals this season than Fernandes, whose 15 goals and 10 assists rank him second in both metrics amongst all Premier League players.
▪️ 22 goals
▪️ 13 assists
Bruno Fernandes keeps putting up numbers this season 👊 pic.twitter.com/8SHChVMrGn
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 21, 2021
Fernandes has been the catalyst for an improvement in the Red Devils and the 26-year-old has been a genuine world-class addition to England’s top tier.
Forward: Timo Werner – Chelsea
Timo Werner’s debut season in the Premier League has proven difficult but there are signs of a superb player in the Germany international, whose maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge has been better than he will be given credit for.
Werner leads Chelsea for assists in the Premier League this season and has provided 16 goal involvements across all competitions.
After scoring 95 goals in 159 appearances for RB Leipzig to become the club’s all-time record goalscorer, Werner will hope to bounce back from a testing period after admitting his arrival into English football has been a ‘reality check’.
Werner has all the raw ingredients to star in the division and will be relishing the prospect of facing a Manchester United defence lacking pace and mobility this weekend
Forward: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Marcus Rashford is handed one of our two inside-forward roles and continues to impress in the Manchester United forward line, netting 18 goals in all competitions so far this season including six in just five starts in the Champions League.
It’s remarkable to think that Rashford remains just 23-year-old considering his longevity in the Red Devils’ first-team, the forward having now entered his fifth full season as a regular in the side.
— The Football Faithful (@FootyFaithfuI) February 25, 2021
Just three players have scored more than Rashford’s 40 goals across all competitions since the start of last season, trailing only Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling amongst all Premier League players.
Lightning quick, skilful and maturing both on and off the pitch, Rashford ranks highly amongst the best young forwards in Europe with only Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe having provided more direct goal involvements amongst players under 23.
Forward: Olivier Giroud – Chelsea
Selecting a centre-forward was difficult in this side with Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Tammy Abraham all options, though we’ve chosen to hand Olivier Giroud some overdue credit with a starting spot in our combined side.
Giroud continues to win over doubters and excel when handed an opportunity at Chelsea, scoring 11 goals in just 10 starts this season including a wonderful overhead kick in the midweek win over Atletico Madrid.
‘Target man Olivier Giroud’ 😏 pic.twitter.com/BaADCxoiJB
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 23, 2021
The 34-year-old is a class act and has thrived on the Champions League stage this season, becoming the competition’s oldest-ever hat-trick scorer following a four-goal haul against Sevilla earlier in the campaign.
Giroud may be entering the final stages of an underrated career but he has proven time and time again that there is plenty of life left in the old dog yet.