Manchester City host rivals Manchester United on Sunday in the Premier League. The Manchester Derby has played out some classics over the years, as well as showcased some of the best talents world football has to offer. This derby is no different. We’ll be looking at a Combined XI of the two clubs, with the stipulation that it’s based on player quality, meaning to look at the players during their prime.
Let’s get into it!
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
David De Gea is one of the best shot-stoppers England has seen in the last decade, and has been a loyal servant for Manchester United since joining the Red Devils in 2011. The Spanish goalkeeper has bailed his side numerous times, keeping 132 clean sheets in 383 appearances for United with a 72,3% save success rate.
De Gea’s only Premier League success came during his first season but has gone on to be included in the PFA Team of the Year five times since. Furthermore, he’s been voted as Man United’s Player of the Year four times since his debut, including as recently as last season where De Gea consistently got his team out of trouble, pulling off world-class saves in the process.
De Gea may not have the ball-playing ability of Ederson but possesses the goalkeeping fundamentals of being a brilliant shot-stopper and carries this out to a high standard.
Right-back: Kyle Walker
England fullback Kyle Walker burst onto the scene in the early 2010s whilst on loan to Aston Villa and QPR from Spurs. However, it was in North London where Walker really made a name for himself, cementing his spot as the Three Lion’s first choice right-back since winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2011/2012.
Walker switched North London for the blue side of Manchester in 2017, where he immediately became a vital cog in Pep Guardiola’s team, winning the league in his first season with City.
Since then, Walker has gone on to win another three Premier League titles, four League Cups and an FA Cup, as well as a Champions League runners-up medal in 2021.
The City fullback has also been included in the PFA Team of the Year on three occasions to go with his spot in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament. A modern-day Premier League great.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane
Four-time UEFA Champions League winner Raphael Varane has dealt with pressure from a young age, breaking into the Real Madrid first team soon after his move from Lens in 2011 for a reported €11million.
The Frenchman would go on to dominate games defensively during his first campaign in Spain, keeping Barcelona’s feared attackers on lock during many Clasicos.
Although Varane has started this season strongly only conceding two goals in his last four PL appearances, the former Real Madrid man gets into the XI based off his career prior to his move to England. Varane has gone on to become one of the most successful UCL players ever, a three-time La Liga winner and was a vital component of France’s 2018 World Cup win in Russia.
Centre-back: Ruben Dias
Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias has been a revelation since arriving in England pretty much as an unknown prior to his move from Benfica. He’s slotted straight into Pep’s starting XI and has been one of, if not the first name on the team sheet ever since.
Dias’ first season in the Premier League propelled him to world-class status and put his name in the bracket of the world’s best central defenders, as the Portuguese International was pivotal to his side wrestling back the league title from Liverpool. He’d go on to be in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season that year, as well as win the Premier League Player of the Season for 2020/2021.
Despite being plagued by injury issues for large parts of last season, Dias was still influential as City regained their title. He must’ve shown great leadership skills even during his time on the treatment table, as Dias was handed the club captaincy this summer after the departure of City legend Fernandinho.
The leader and captain of the best team in England and arguably the world, Dias is thoroughly deserving of a spot in this XI.
Left-back: Joao Cancelo
Joao Cancelo has revolutionized the inverted fullback role since arriving in Manchester from Juventus. The Portuguese International took time to settle in, as most Guardiola signings do, spending a lot of time on the bench during his first campaign.
However, once his role was made clear to him by Pep, Cancelo took off like a rocket.
Known more for his attacking prowess and ability on the ball, Guardiola decided to deploy Cancelo in a way that enhances his quality and utilizes it in a way that majorly benefits the team. As a result, Cancelo has become the biggest creative hub at Man City behind Kevin De Bruyne, often coming into midfield to allow City to dominate the middle of the pitch, overloading their opposition.
His importance to City was made evident by the fact that they gave him the number 7 shirt number after Raheem Sterling’s departure in the summer, an odd jersey number for a defender.
Similar to Varane, Casemiro gets into this combined XI based off quality during his peak, as well as what he’s achieved in his career due to him not being in England long enough to base it off his stint in Manchester.
However, United have signed one of the best defensive midfielders in the world currently, and arguably the best over the last decade, winning 5 UEFA Champions Leagues, with no player winning more.
The Brazilian was the glue of the famous midfield trio, which included Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, that conquered Europe between 2014 and 2022. Without Casemiro, we might not have been able to witness the full extent of the other two player’s class, such was his importance to their game.
Furthermore, Casemiro was one of a very select few players that could handle the defensive side of the midfield by himself, something that we are seeing now with Rodri at Man City.
Centre-Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne
Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has been nothing short of sensational since his move from the Bundesliga in 2015, with many putting him up there in the ‘Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes’ debate in terms of the Premier League’s greatest ever midfielders. And it’s easy to understand why.
De Bruyne has won the Premier League four times, playing a vital role in each. During his in time in England, the former Chelsea player has scored 58 goals and provided 92 assists in just 217 league appearances, with no player providing more PL assists than De Bruyne since his debut.
Currently, it would be difficult to name many PL players better than De Bruyne, who leads the assist charts with six from the opening seven games. He’ll be aiming to break his own record of 20 PL assists, the joint-most in a single campaign, alongside Thierry Henry.
Furthermore, De Bruyne has been in the PL Team of the Season in the last three campaigns and has been the Premier League Player of the Season twice before, in 2019/2020 and 2021/2022, respectively.
One of the first names in this combined XI.
Left-midfielder: Bernardo Silva
Former Monaco star Bernardo Silva has had a stunning impact since arriving in Manchester. Silva is an extremely versatile player that can see him play in the front line, on either flank or in central midfield.
Silva’s two biggest attributes is his dribbling ability, constantly bamboozling defenders with his quick feet as he evades pressure or beats the press, and his footballing IQ in terms of his awareness of the spaces around him. This allows Silva to always make the right decision on the ball.
The Portuguese International has made 173 appearances for City in the Premier League, scoring 31 goals and laying on a further 31 assists. Silva has also been part of the PFA Team of the Year twice, in 2018/2019 and 2021/2022, respectively.
Any team would love a Bernardo Silva in their team, and we’re no different.
Right-Midfielder: Riyad Mahrez
Algerian International winger Riyad Mahrez rose to stardom during Leicester’s epic title success in 2015/2016, scoring 17 goals and laying on 11 assists as the Foxes pulled off an unlikely title-win.
Fast-forward seven years and Mahrez may have lost some of his pace, but he remains one of the trickiest, most skillful wingers around. The Algerian is also now a four-time Premier League winner, playing a major role in many of them at Man City in addition to the Leicester triumph.
After sweeping up all the individual PL awards in 2015, Mahrez has become a bit underrated and underappreciated since, especially considering the importance of some of his contributions at City.
A Premier League icon and a name that will forever be associated with the greatest feat in world football, Mahrez deserves a place in this XI.
Striker: Erling Haaland
The youngest player in this XI, Erling Haaland is a generational talent that, should his form continue, will go down as an all-time great.
Haaland has a knack of scoring goals at such a young age that we haven’t seen since arguably Marco Van Basten or Ronaldo Nazario (although Mbappe is a more of a resemblance). The 22-year-old has an astonishing record since joining RB Salzburg in 2019.
The Norwegian bagged 29 goals in 27 games for the Austrian side before moving to Borussia Dortmund, where he scored 86 goals in 89 appearances. Then came his move to Man City, where Haaland had started like a house on fire, scoring 14 goals in his opening 10 games. Furthermore, Haaland’s record for the Norway National team is also astounding, scoring 21 goals in 23 appearances for the men’s team.
Haaland is a goal-scoring machine, already sitting on 26 UCL goals in just 21 appearances in the competition, well on course to smash both Ronaldo and Messi’s record.
Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo
The final player in this combined XI is, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid player is an undisputed legend of the game, and although his return to Man United hasn’t gone as planned, his reputation remains undiminished.
The five-time Ballon D’or winner is Real Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer, netting 450 goals in just 438 games for Los Blancos, a quite frankly ridiculous stat. Furthermore, Ronaldo has also tasted continental success with two different clubs, winning the UEFA Champions League, of which he is the top-scorer, with both Man United and Real Madrid.
The Portuguese superstar has won seven league titles across three countries and the UCL five times, with no player has winning it more. Additionally, Ronaldo led Portugal to their first ever piece of international silverware, winning Euro 2016.
Ronaldo is the top goal scorer in the history of football, scoring 890 goals in just over 1000 games across the 37-year-old’s entire career.
One of, if not the best to ever kick a ball, Ronaldo leads this combined XI.