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A combined Manchester XI

ESPN staff
December 7, 2012
Sergio Aguero forms part of our imaginary strikeforce © PA Photos

Sunday brings the biggest Premier League fixture of the season to date as Manchester City host rivals United at the Etihad. Bragging rights will be up for grabs, but who has the better team on paper? If you had to pick a "Manchester XI", who would make the cut?

Below we name our ten outfield players, based on the assumption that Joe Hart - as England's No. 1 - is something of a shoo-in given the fact United don't have a cast-iron first-choice keeper.

Left-back - Patrice Evra

Age: 31
League record in Manchester derbies: Five wins, two draws, four losses
Edges out: Gael Clichy
Why? Patrice Evra has had the edge on his French colleague throughout the majority of their careers, even at international level, where the Manchester United man has 30 more caps than Clichy. A sounder defensive option than Clichy, who has improved that area of his game since arriving at City, Evra also uses the ball better in the final third, as shown by his recent raids forward in the 4-3 win at Reading.

Right-back - Rafael da Silva

Age: 22
League record in Manchester derbies: Two wins, one draw
Edges out: Micah Richards
Why? Perhaps the most controversial selection in the team, Rafael gets the nod ahead of Pablo Zabaleta, Micah Richards and Maicon. The latter simply cannot be considered due to his lack of playing time in England, while Zabaleta and Richards are both better defenders than Rafael - highlighted by his poor recent display against Jobi McAnuff. However, the Brazilian's good days are increasingly arriving far more often than his bad ones, and he has made key contributions going forward, such as his equaliser at Liverpool.

Subs bench

  • David De Gea
  • Rio Ferdinand
  • Micah Richards
  • Samir Nasri
  • Darren Fletcher
  • Wayne Rooney
  • Carlos Tevez

Centre-back - Vincent Kompany

Age: 26
League record in Manchester derbies: Two wins, one draw, four losses
Edges out: Rio Ferdinand
Why? If there was a more inspirational captain last season, we cannot think of him. The defining moment was of course Vincent Kompany's header to win the derby at the Etihad, en route to lifting City's first Premier League title. The Belgium international has the athleticism and recovery speed that Ferdinand no longer has, he leads by example and is an aerial powerhouse in both penalty boxes.

Centre-back - Nemanja Vidic

Age: 31
League record in Manchester derbies: Seven wins, one draw, two losses
Edges out: Joleon Lescott
Why? Despite a long injury-layoff Nemanja Vidic remains Manchester United's best defender, a fact that has been brought under the spotlight by United's shaky defensive performances this season. Sir Alex Ferguson's men have already conceded over 30 goals in all competitions, and it would be a surprise to nobody if Vidic is thrown in at the deep end - regardless of Ferguson's pre-match comments - on Sunday.

Midfield - Yaya Toure

Age: 29
League record in Manchester derbies: Two wins, one draw, one loss
Edges out: Anderson
Why? Quite simply a force in the midfield, and surely Roberto Mancini's best signing as Manchester City boss. Few saw the potential in Yaya Toure to switch from midfield anchor at Barcelona to box-to-box goal-scoring machine at City, and United boast no player like him. Toure scored ten goals in all competitions last season and City's worst run came when he was absent at the African Nations Cup.

Midfield - Antonio Valencia

Age: 27
League record in Manchester derbies: Two wins, one loss
Edges out: Samir Nasri
Why? Extremely understated in the way he goes about his work, Antonio Valencia must be a manager's dream. Whether he plays right-back or right-wing he seems to affect the game, there are no tricks or bouts of showboating to his game, he just beats his fullback and delivers. Crucially, the quality of what he delivers is arguably better than any other player in the league, something City's wide men (Milner, Sinclair, Nasri) could learn from.

Midfield - Paul Scholes

Age: 38
League record in Manchester derbies: 11 wins, five draws, five losses
Edges out: Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher
Why? Another tough call, Paul Scholes gets the nod due to his outstanding impact on specific games this season. Away to Southampton and Liverpool spring to mind, both games where United failed to control midfield until the veteran arrived off the bench. Scholes has had a more telling say than Ryan Giggs this season, and with Shinji Kagawa still too raw to judge in the Premier League and Darren Fletcher returning from a career-threatening illness, Scholes' class remains above his peers.

Robin van Persie was a no-brainer in attack © PA Photos

Midfield - David Silva

Age: 26
League record in Manchester derbies: Two wins, one draw, one loss
Edges out: Nani and Ashley Young
Why? Arguably the only player who can rival Scholes' class on a football, David Silva is the key source of invention in a City attack that has flattered to deceive in the 2012-13 campaign. Mancini strives to find the right attacking combination with his four forwards, but Silva's presence behind them is a constant. His delicate pass for the winning goal in the recent game with Tottenham summed up how vital he is to City's hopes of retaining their title.

Forward - Robin van Persie

Age: 29
League record in Manchester derbies: N/A
Edges out: Carlos Tevez
Why? The only forward in both squads that was a shoo-in for our combined XI. Robin van Persie's goal record speaks for itself, with 13 in all competitions for United this season. However, it's not only the volume of goals but when he scores them, with winners against Southampton, Liverpool, West Ham and Reading. Fantastic movement, good in the air and a wand of a left boot, Van Persie is in his own words a superb "9½".

Forward - Sergio Aguero

Age: 24
League record in Manchester derbies: Two wins
Edges out: Wayne Rooney
Why? So difficult to choose between Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, but if you were a manager of a neutral club (perhaps Chelsea), which would you sign? We would take Aguero for his touch, his technique, his speed over five yards, and his eye for goal. Like the other two, he's blown hot and cold this season but he still has seven goals to his name for City this term - level with Tevez and ahead of Rooney's five.
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