The Premier League has plenty of high-voltage rivalries but arguably none is more electric than the North-West Derby aka Manchester United vs Liverpool.
The most successful clubs in the history of the English football by a country mile, the Red Devils and the Reds have witnessed countless epic clashes over the years.
Their fortunes may have ebbed and flowed, but the animosity between their fan bases has only grown and ahead of their 199th official meeting on Saturday at Anfield, The Statesman has taken the liberty of forming a combined XI from the current sides, in a 4-2-3-1 formation for you:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United)
No contest here, even Liverpool fans would have to agree. The Premier League’s finest goalkeeper by a considerable margin, de Gea will soon be pushing the likes of Manuel Neuer for a place in the FIFPro World XI.
Simon Mignolet has improved since his early days at the club, but is still prone to the odd blunder and cannot be placed ahead of the Spanish and United No.1.
Left-Back: Daley Blind (Manchester United)
Neither set of fans will be happy with this selection, but United’s versatile Dutchman remains a solid pick at left-back. Ashley Young, since his recovery from injury, has started to play regularly but the converted winger isn’t naturally left-footed and his propensity towards injury works against him here.
Of course in an ideal world, Luke Shaw would be United’s first-choice left-back but the young Englishman just can’t get over his injury woes and while there is hope that he could establish himself into the set up, the clock is ticking.
Jurgen Klopp has alternated with Andy Robertson and Albero Moreno at left-back, and while the former has been bright, he’s played just twice and cannot be considered due to the limited number of minutes.
Moreno, often the source of fans’ ire, has improved but the jet-heeled Spaniard is still far too inconsistent and one feels that sooner rather than later, Robertson will take his place.
Centre Back: Eric Bailly (Manchester United)
Have United found Nemanja Vidic’s replacement in Eric Bailly? The tough, bordering on rash, Ivorian’s style play is certainly reminiscent of the legendary Serbian. Bailly has gone from strength to strength after moving from Villareal last season and is one of the first names on United’s team sheet, such is his consistency.
Dejan Lovren, may be Liverpool’s record defensive signing, but the Croatian has not looked worth his £20 million fee and despite being in his fourth season with the club, doesn’t look like he has settled well.
Centre Back: Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Jones, to the surprise of many, started the season as Bailly’s partner in the hear of the Red Devils defence but his performances have been vital in United’s steely defence this season.
Oft-injured and vulnerable to concentration lapses, Jones is a divisive figure. When he was signed in 2011, big things were expected from him but it’s safe to say he hasn’t quite delivered.
However, the current season has seen him become a mainstay in Mourinho’s squad and many forget that Jones is still 25 and has plenty of football left in him.
And while Joel Matip is an all-round defender, the Cameroonian seems to have forgotten basic tenets of defending since his arrival at Anfield in 2016, not helped by his calamitous defensive partners (Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan).
Right-Back: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Valencia has always been criticised for his predictable style of play but it seems to be proving effective as the Ecuadorian is among the best right-backs in the Premier League right now.
The fullback, converted from a winger, may not be particularly effective on the overlap, but has improved defensively in leaps and bounds. At 32, he may not be the speed demon he once was, but is a solid pick.
Nathaniel Clyne has blown hot and cold since his move from Southampton (surprise, surprise) in 2015 and his latest injury setback has left many Reds fans wondering whether the club has signed another Lovren. At 26, he still has time on his side but the pacy fullback needs to take a leaf from Valencia’s book and start to get some semblance of consistency into his game.
Central Midfield: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
Signing of the summer? One of the Premier League’s finest defensive midfielders, the hulking Serbian has impressed since his £40 million move from Chelsea in the summer. Reunited with Jose Mourinho, the 29-year-old has revitalised his game at Old Trafford and is a favourite to feature in the Premie League team of the year.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson hasn’t been playing poorly, quite the opposite in fact, but the gulf in class between himself and United’s Serbian enforcer is apparent.
Central Midfield: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
If last season was an appetiser, this season was billed as the main course but sadly things went awry for Pogba when he injured his hamstring in September. The club’s record signing has been unencumbered the arrival of Matic and his tally of two goals and as many assists in four games was impressive indeed.
Emre Can is finally starting to play at a consistent level for Liverpool but the 23-year-old German is not on Pogba’s level yet.
Left Wing: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Liverpool finally make their presence felt but Mane’s pick will feel bittersweet considering the Senegalese just injured his hamstring and is expected to be missing in action for a period of six weeks.
Despite getting contentiously sent off for a challenge on Manchester City keeper Ederson and subsequently missing two more games, the 25-year-old has emerged as a key figure in Liverpool’s frightening attack triumvirate.
Anthony Martial seems to have found his feet at United again and continues to bang in the goals despite seeing limited action, but till the time he is a sure-shot starter, cannot be picked over Mane.
Attacking Midfield: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
After their forwards had been firing on all cylinders at the start of the season, many of the Liverpool faithful suggested wantaway midfielder Philippe Coutinho was surplus to requirements at Anfield.
Since his return from injury, the twinkle-toed magician has scored back-to-back golazos to remind everyone why Barcelona were so intent on prising him away in the summer.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, on the verge of becoming United’s forgotten man after a sub-par debut season, has exploded this year to lead the Premier League assist charts. However, the Armenian needs to prove himself over the course of the entire season before he can be considered over the Liverpool’s crown jewel.
Right Wing: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s record signing has quelled all doubts over his ability to play in the Premier League and while his finishing still needs improvement, the 25-year-old Egyptian has been terrorising defences with his pace and trickery.
A tally of five goals already suggests he has a keen eye for goal and Liverpool fans will want a repeat of his tally from his last season from Roma this time round.
Juan Mata has, against all odds, kept his place in United’s starting XI but is not a winger by any stretch of the imagination and the diminutive Spaniard misses out.
Centre Forward: Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Was this ever in doubt? United’s £75 million acquisition has hit the ground sprinting since his summer move and is a heavy favourite to win the Premier League Golden Boot this season.
Doubts remain over his ability to score against ‘top-six’ sides and only time will tell whether the burly Belgian can maintain his goalscoring form throughout the season, but for the moment, he is definitely among the top echelon of strikers in the English top-flight.
Roberto Firmino is in decent form as well, but the Brazilian is not an out-and-out striker and Lukaku is the right man to lead this combined XI.