Everybody’s talking about it: the incredible reunion of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, once rivals in Spain, now enemies in England, in the season’s first Manchester derby.
Both Manchester United and Manchester City have won three games out of three, so something has to give. But who made our combined XI?
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper almost moved to Spain when Real Madrid came calling, and all that stood between him and the European champions was a faulty fax machine, if rumours are to be believed. Capable of world-class reflex saves, and with added maturity, de Gea has a claim to the title of best goalkeeper in the world, let alone the Premier League.
Right-Back: Pablo Zabaleta
Not as prominent last season for City, but to be honest neither of these two sides boast a right-back at the top of his game. Zabaleta is an intelligent and experienced defender however, and still manages to get in the combined XI over Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia.
Centre-Back: Vincent Kompany
Fitness pending, obviously, Kompany is one of the most imposing and genius centre-backs on his day. A leader and a genuinely nice bloke, the Belgian’s bullet header against Manchester United in 2012 helped the Citizens to their first Premier League title. A legend of the game.
Centre-Back: Eric Bailly
Perhaps it’s a little premature, but Manchester United fans will be delighted with the performances the young former Villarreal defender has put in so far. Bailly is physically imposing, comfortable on the ball and good in the air. He’s in our team.
Left-Back: Luke Shaw
Another up-and-comer, but Shaw easily beats an ageing Gael Clichy to the side here. Shaw missed most of the 2015/16 season with a gruesome broken leg, but he’s back now and looks set to be a menace for the Old Trafford side for years to come. Quick, adventurous, and presumably soaking up Jose Mourinho’s advice like a sponge, Shaw’s career looks promising.
Central Midfield: Paul Pogba
How could you leave the world’s most expensive player out of the team? Pogba has blown a bit hot and cold so far, but games like the Manchester derby are where we expect to see his price tag fully justified. The France international is capable of turning a game on its head, and has an infinite number of skills to call on to give Mourinho’s side an edge.
Central Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
If Pogba needed clarification that a hefty price tag can indeed be justified, he need look no further than Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian arrived at Manchester City and immediately demonstrated the goals, assists and creativity that made him such an attractive proposition. De Bruyne is one of the league’s most elegant players, and the chances are Mourinho will have a plan to contain him.
Right Wing: David Silva
Need we say more? The Spanish magician is built in the mould of Andres Iniesta (but not quite) and capable of defence-splitting passes, mazy runs and much more. Pep Guardiola must have thanked his lucky stars that he had someone like Silva to work with when arriving at the Etihad.
Left Wing: Raheem Sterling
Booed at Euro 2016 and unfairly scapegoated, the England international is thriving again under his new manager. Quick and agile, Sterling puts defences on the back foot and creates space. Manchester United don’t have a winger like him.
Forward: Sergio Aguero
Along with Vincent Kompany, another player Mourinho will be grateful is unavailable to Pep. Aguero is quite simply the most consistently brilliant striker in the Premier League over the last five years. Quick, clever, and with a devastating knack for finding the bottom corner, this is one conundrum Jose won’t need to solve this weekend.
Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
A player fully proven, Zlatan is the big time, the blockbuster, the Hollywood film with all the explosions. He delivers, and has already taken to the Premier League like a duck to water. Zlatan thrives off the big games and has more than enough ability to give John Stones nightmares.