Manchester XI

I will begin by stating on record for those that don’t know, that I am a Manchester United fan.

Sure, it is easy therefore for my judgement on this particular line-up to become a little clouded. I have though tried my utmost to keep my bias under control and have tried to deliver here what I honestly believe to have been the best Manchester XI up to now this season based on a combination of form and statistics.

Manchester United Manchester City

City’s fans may be on top in this picture, but…

In order to counter those who think this will be based purely on a huge bias towards United, I will remind you that I predicted that City would win the title this year and that I believe that one to eleven that they have just as good a side as United.

I would also hasten to add that I would have picked a similar imbalance of City and United players this time last year, but the imbalance would have been in favour of City and the team would have included the likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, and Sergio Aguero along with the City representatives who have also made the cut this time around.

My selection is as follows:

(4-2-3-1)

David De Gea

Joe Hart my have out-statted De Gea in terms of clean-sheets, 14 to nine, but he has also been far more error-prone and cost his side more points than De Gea has. The fluffy-lipped Spaniard has come one leaps and bounds this year and has arguably been the best keeper in the league.

Pablo Zabaleta

Zabaleta is probably the only must-pick from City in this entire XI. His form has been so steady all year and he has continued from where he left off last season where he became the bedrock of City’s title push. He has been outstanding this term, and that can’t be said for a single other City player.

Rio Ferdinand

He may not be in favour with most English football fans after his recent antics, but he has had a great season, of that there is no doubt. I have always been a huge admirer of what Rio offers, but even I had thought that we had seen the best of him before this season, but he has had a bit of a renaissance and has been terrific.

Jonny Evans

I never thought I’d say this, but Mr.Evans has grown in to a cracking centre-half. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I have always found it hard to put much faith in Evans until this season. He and Rio have gelled superbly and this has helped David De Gea no end.

Patrice Evra

One of the easiest selections of the lot. City haven’t contributed a great deal in the left back department this year, Patrice Evra of United on the other hand has been outstanding. As well as sharpening up his defensive game, which had waned a little last year, Evra has also chipped in with four league goals, and five league assists, a fantastic and well deserved return for the Frenchman.

Yaya Toure

He hasn’t been quite as good as last year when I would have rated him as my player of the year, but Yaya is a huge asset for City and has still contributed five goals and three assists despite his lengthy absence caused by the African Cup of Nations. It will be a great relief to City fans that his contractual wranglings appear to have been sorted out, as they desperately need him in the heart of their midfield.

Michael Carrick

He may not have scored a single goal this season, but that is almost the only criticism you could target at Michael Carrick this season. He has been consistently brilliant all year, and the four assists to his name don’t do him any justice. The number of important interventions he has made this season, and the number of goal-scoring moves that he has started or played a big part in must be through the roof. First name on this particular team-sheet.

David Silva

Silva, like Toure, hasn’t quite been at his best this year but he has still been a vital cog in City’s attacking machine and not many have played better in sky blue this term. Four goals and seven assists certainly doesn’t make for bad reading.

Wayne Rooney

Many have targeted a lot of criticism at Mr. Rooney this season, and have indeed suggested that this is to be his last at Old Trafford, but I can’t see why. He has only managed 21 appearances this season, but in these appearances he has scored twelve times (as many as any of City’s players), and has notched an impressive haul of 9 assists (more than any City player). He hasn’t been as good as last season, but his role has changed since RVP’s arrival and he has had some injury bother. Nevertheless his contribution has still been sizeable and I think we are slowly seeing his transition into one of the best attacking mids in world football rather than an out and out striker.

Danny Welbeck

Stats may well be the best indicator around for form and contributions made, but in this case ignore them. He hasn’t been banging in the goals, and he hasn’t been a prolific assist maker either but his work ethic has been immense. So rarely has Welbeck failed to contribute this season, so much so that Ferguson has picked him in most of the big games this year and Welbeck has never let him down. This may just be a personal preference pick, but I think he has had a very decent season in spite of what the stats might tell you.

Robin Van Persie versus Manchester City

Robin ruled triumphant at the Etihad

Robin Van Persie

If Michael Carrick wins the nod for the ‘first name on the team-sheet’ in this line-up, then RVP runs him a close second. He has scored 19 goals in the league and made 8 assists, a brilliant contribution and the sort that must irk Roberto Mancini beyond belief as he tried to sign the prolific Dutchman last summer before United beat them to their target. The brilliant thing about Van Persie’s season has been that most of his goal have been important. Many have been winners or goals that turned the tide in matches. He has been off the boil of late, but don’t hold that against him.

United 8 -3 City

Stars of the Premier League season so far…

With the Premier League readying itself for the busy festive season and the season reaching it’s mid-point I felt it was time to pick out my players of the season so far. With Manchester City currently ruling the roost it is hard to look beyond their star turns but I have endeavoured come up with a few alternative selections that I feel are also worthy of significant recognition. First up: The man who would make everybody’s list…

David Silva:

What can I say about Silva that hasn’t already been said by a thousand pundits and sports writer’s in 2011? Well, in truth, very little indeed. So here goes a rather predictable homage to the brilliance of the man that is known by his team mates as “the magician”…

Couple speed with superb balance, great feet, and an almost unrivalled eye for a defence splitting pass and you have the make-up of the Spaniard’s game. His majesty in the roaming central midfield role for City this season has inspired their charge to the summit of the Premier League and if he continues in the same vein for the remainder of the season then it is hard to see how anyone will be able to handle either him individually, or him as part of an entirely potent attacking force at the Etihad. I can’t recall a single player ever to grace the Premier League that has provided so much in terms of creation in the first half of a season as Silva has so far and there really is no greater compliment that I could afford him than that.

Yaya Toure:

When he signed for the club I was entirely sceptical about the sum of money that City parted with to secure his services and the reported weekly wage outlay of over £200,000 that they were set to give him. Add to this Mancini’s seeming desire to turn him into a more attacking central force than a defensive one and I became even more of a synic, but as it turns out my scepticism was wholly unfair.

Mancini’s decision to give him far greater attacking license than that which he had been afforded at former club Barcelona has proved to be an inspired move. Since joining City, Toure’s ability to gobble up the yards with consistently strong and rangy surges has become a trademark of his both in attack and defence and it has demonstrated his immense value all over the field of play. Many have delved deep to lavish his more celebrated team mate David Silva with every superlative they can find, but I believe that Toure has been equally brilliant for City this year. He has very rarely failed to deliver a high-class performance this season and his strength, determination and appetite for getting from box-to-box has been utterly essential to City’s rise to prominence.

Michel Vorm:

Unbelievably the man between the sticks at Swansea City (the team most fancied for the drop at the start of the season) has managed to keep eight clean sheets in sixteen games this season. Such statistics sound befitting only of teams harbouring serious aspirations of competing for the title, but Mr.Vorm has risen from anonymity amongst Premier League fans to become a cult figure in Swansea and one of the most respected keepers in the English league.

Following his low-key summer transfer to the Premier League new-boys he has fast-established himself as their number one and arguably the most impressive keeper of the season so far. His penchant for saving penalties and making some quite frankly outrageous reaction stops has endeared himself to all who follow the Premier League, and sadly for Swansea, his form has been so good that it is hard to see him staying when the bigger fish of the footballing world come circling in as they inevitably will.

Robin Van Persie:

Fifteen goals in sixteen Premier League games pretty much tells you all you need to know about RVP’s most impressive season to date and there is no team in world football who wouldn’t benefit from his presence when he is in this kind of form. Since being handed the Captain’s arm band at the start of the season the Dutchman has elevated his already brilliant game to a new level. If it weren’t for his inspirational goalscoring exploits then I shudder to think where Arsenal would be in the league. The technical genius that he demonstrated in his match-winning strike against Everton this month epitomised all that has made this season one to remember for a man who is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest centre forwards.

Phil Jones:

Whether it be at right back, centre back or centre midfield Phil Jones has surpassed all expectations so far in his first season at Manchester United, and he has made a complete mockery of his £16 million transfer fee.

In the modern game it is hard to buy any player of real quality for anything less than around £20 million, but in recruiting Jones from Blackburn Sir Alex Ferguson has managed to pull off an absolute steal. Not only has he signed someone of real quality, but in Jones he has landed a player that I think could go on to be one the best players of his generation. His speed and technical ability must be the envy of all other defenders in world football at the moment, and they’re enabling him to demonstrate something of an ‘X-Factor’. Couple these defining characteristics with the more stock abilities for a central defender such as strength, awareness and aerial ability (all of which he has in abundance) and you can see why he is fast becoming United’s man for a crisis.

When you consider the premium placed on the head of English footballers in the transfer market (for example: Andy Carroll to Liverpool £35 million, Stewart Downing to Liverpool £20 million and Jordan Henderson to Liverpool £20 million… spot the trend…) it is verging on miraculous that United managed to land Jones for such a reasonable price, and the more he continues to impress the more of a coup it will become.

Other close contenders: Wayne Rooney, Scott Parker, Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Fabricio Collocini, Joe Hart, Sergio Aguero

Team of the season so far: (4-1-1-2-2)

GK: Michel Vorm

RB: Micah Richards

CB: Vincent Kompany

CB: Phil Jones

LB: Luis Enrique

CDM: Scott Parker

CM: Yaya Toure

AM: David Silva

AM: Gareth Bale

STR:Robin Van Persie

STR: Sergio Aguero