When English Premier League leaders Chelsea travel to Manchester United, they can expect a rough ride as the Red Devils bid to slow their title-charge on Sunday.
While the sides may be miles apart in the English Premier League rankings, the sides have some top class individuals, which made the task of selecting combined XI (Formation for the sake of the article is a 4-4-2) a very hard one indeed.
Goalkeeeper: David de Gea
Okay, so United’s super Spaniard may not have had a sensational season under Jose Mourinho, but it is a sign of an improving team that your goalkeeper does not have to make outstanding saves in each game. While Thibaut Courtois is an excellent custodian, de Gea is still the league’s best goalkeeper and would walk into any side in the world.
Left Back: Marcos Alonso
One of the Premier League signings of the season, Chelsea’s Spanish full-back has been something of a revelation. Inviting crosses, thumping headers and sumptuous free-kicks, he can do it all from an offensive standpoint. Not to say that he isn't defensively sound, but his offensive traits have been far more prominent all season. United haven't had a regular starter at left-back, with Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian flitting in and out of the line up this year.
Centre Back: Gary Cahill
The first of Chelsea’s defensive rocks this season, Gary Cahill has seriously upped his game under Antonio Conte. The former Bolton man beats off his international teammate Chris Smalling for this spot without much fuss, considering the United defender has been injured often this season. Cahill may be on the wrong side of 30, but it is a fact that in Conte’s 3-4-3, he hasn't done much wrong. He’s got four goals already, which just proves that he is a serious threat from set-pieces as well.
Centre Back: David Luis
People mocked Chelsea’s decision to splash the cash on their former defender David Luis in August, but here we are, in April and the Brazilian has forced his detractors to eat their words. Yes, he is still prone to the occasional error and probably would not be the first defender that you want in your XI, but on the basis of this season it is hard to argue against Luiz’s inclusion. United defender Eric Bailly has been impressive, agreed, but Luiz deserves the nod here.
Right Back: Antonio Valencia
Probably the toughest pick of the XI, as both Cesar Azpilcueta and Antonio Valencia have had fine seasons. The Ecuadorian currently is the league’s best right-back, which is unfortunate for the super-consistent Azpilcueta, who hasn't done much wrong this season. Valencia has improved his crossing abilities and is a genuine threat on the overlap and while Chelsea's Spaniard is hard to beat one-on-one as well, the United man holds the overall edge here.
Left Midfield: Eden Hazard
A strong contender for PFA player of the year, Hazard has shone this year after undergoing a massive dip under Mourinho in the 2015-16 season. His mazy dribbling, deft finishes and cool penalties make him a delight to watch and with none of United’s players in this position having a consistent season, Hazard strolls into this XI.
Centre Midfield: N’Golo Kante
Every team needs that energiser bunny in the middle of the park and Kante is the workhorse most of Europe wants. The Frenchman has been so good in his debut season with the Blues that it wouldn't surprise many if he beat Hazard to the PFA award this year. United’s big-bucks signing Paul Pogba may well outshine him in the coming decade, but for the moment, the diminutive Kante towers over the flashy Red Devils midfielder.
Centre Midfield: Ander Herrera
A player in similar vein to Kante, the ever-industrious Herrera’s technical abilities are often overlooked. His passing is quite accurate and while he hasn't score this season, he can hit some stunners when he wants to. Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas have impressed in patches this season and hence, Herrera is an easy choice to partner Kante in this XI. In fact, even if the duo had been consistent, they would still have lost out to the Red Devils midfielder, such has been Herrera's sparkling form in the middle of the pitch this season.
Right Midfield: Pedro
Another player who has undergone a stunning transformation under Antonio Conte, jet-heeled Pedro has been superb for the Blues this season. Seven goals and seven assists are a remarkable return for a player whose Premier League career had been written off by most last year. His inclusion is helped by the fact that his strongest competitor from United, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has undergone a difficult start to his Premier League career.
Centre Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
With both forwards tied on 17 goals for the season, they just had to play together. United’s buy of the season, the veteran forward has literally proven thousands of critics wrong with his barnstorming displays. Not the most mobile of forwards, the Swede’s sheer presence in the box coupled with his supreme self-confidence make him the ultimate target-man. As a bonus, his post-match interviews are a delight!
Centre Forward: Diego Costa
Chelsea’s snarling hitman, Diego Costa, has come good this season after a seriously underwhelming 2015-16 season. Always fighting for the ball, Costa is a controversial but highly-effective modern-day striker. He can run behind defences, hold up the ball well and has a keen eye for goal. It may well be his last season in the Premier League, so enjoy while you can.
Final Score: Manchester United 4, Chelsea 7