Mix and Match XIs, Combi-Squads, Amalgamation Units. Whatever you call them, merging the rosters of two rivals to make one supercharged outfit is now as common a weapon in the digital media arsenal as a click-bait headline (see above for an example).
But as Manchester United and Manchester City prepare to do battle for the first time since both clubs spent money like a lottery winner, the temptation to pick the best XI from their overdosed squads is just too great.
The strike rate for naming the perfect blend in these exercises is worryingly low, even for reputed publications.
At the time of writing, The Guardian’s attempt (which bizarrely selects Marcus Rashford ) has attracted 207 comments below the fold, and plenty more on Twitter. But then that was probably the aim.
Our effort is slightly different. It tries to put a workable side together using players that are available for selection and in their correct positions. Tries is the operative word:
Right, here we go. Goalkeeper. Few complaints right? City’s situation between the sticks has been worthy of Coronation Street airtime. Meanwhile, David de Gea has been the best stopper in the division for the last three seasons.
Eric Bailly and John Stones have been standout performers in the heart of their respective defences so far, showing the virtues of selecting players in their natural positions. They’re in.
Flanking them is Luke Shaw and Pablo Zabaleta. The former has picked right up from where he left off before his horror leg injury last term, while the latter has proved best at adapting to Pep Guardiola’s instructions to operate like a centre-midfielder.
Marouane Fellaini has surprised everyone with his early form for United, but we’re still plumping for Fenandinho to shield the back four and recycle position as the holding midfielder.
Paul Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne sit in front of the Brazilian and look a tantalising tandem of athleticism and creativity on paper. Yes, we know the Belgian naturally operates further up the pitch, but that’s not where he’s being picked this season.
Naming the front three caused some problems. Not up front, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic strutted into the side thanks to Sergio Aguero’s absence, but out wide.
Raheem Sterling has been extremely productive so far and is in on the right, leaving the left wing a battle between David Silva, Nolito, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata.
We tossed and turned on it, but in the end broke our own natural-positions rule and slotted Silva in.
Although he’s partnering De Bruyne in the middle this season he has played from the flanks in the past and has simply been too good to leave out. Picking any of the other options in place of him just wouldn’t have felt right.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.