Picking a Chelsea-Manchester United XI Based on Form This Year
Of the two teams, who has the better players? Are Chelsea as good as their league position suggests? Can United beat them at Stamford Bridge and kick-start the unlikeliest of late-season title challenges?
Given the slow start to the campaign by Louis van Gaal's men, the first half of 2014/15 was one to forget for United. Since Christmas, however, things have improved and the signs are encouraging.
It's been the opposite for Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho's side were irresistible before the New Year, but their form has tailed off since January. It's been more about grinding out victories and without some big guns firing, Chelsea haven't been as easy on the eye.
So, using their form in 2015 as the basis, who would make a Chelsea-United XI right now?
We've picked our team, but if you disagree with our selection be sure to let us know in the comments below.
David De Gea
There's not much between David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois, or even Petr Cech for that matter.
Chelsea have two exceptional goalkeepers to choose from, while United's Spaniard also ranks highly among the world's leading talents.
As we're basing our team selection on the form of players in 2015, De Gea just shades it.
Cech hasn't played enough to warrant selection above him, while Courtois has allowed a few errors to creep into his game—think the recent clash with Hull City when he dallied in possession before giving the ball away to gift Abel Hernandez an equaliser.
De Gea is far from faultless himself, yet the United stopper has been incredible for his team. He's saved them big points at times and is a big influence at Old Trafford.
Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic
Manchester United's right-back has changed frequently this season, but it's Antonio Valencia who seems to have nailed down the position more recently.
He offers plenty going forward, but Valencia isn't a defender by trade. And it shows.
He can get caught out of position and it's a weakness United need to address this summer.
In contrast, Branislav Ivanovic is enjoying another fruitful campaign. Like Valencia, his adventure going forward can leave him exposed at times, but he has enough about him to recover.
It's not just about the flanks, either. Ivanovic adds cover in the centre and is a real aerial presence from set-pieces at both ends.
Left-back: Cesar Azpilicueta
Like the right flank, Manchester United's left-back position has changed frequently this season, mainly due to the injury problems of Luke Shaw.
Daley Blind has deputised well, but the Dutchman struggles to compete with Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea's Spaniard is actually playing out of position, with his natural role being on the opposite side of defence. You wouldn't know it.
Azpilicueta brings shape to the Chelsea defence. He's disciplined, reads the game well and is rarely mastered by his opponent.
When there are far bigger names in the Chelsea team, Azpilicueta operates as one of Jose Mourinho's unsung heroes.
Centre-back: Gary Cahill
He's England's best centre-back right now and Gary Cahill would command a place in any of the Premier League's top six teams.
After a poor Christmas period, he's rediscovered the form that has seen him become a regular under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
He complements John Terry and is becoming a senior member of this Chelsea team, one of the leaders.
Looking at the United centre-back position, they're still reeling from the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
Those players still haven't been replaced and the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo need to improve considerably to be considered in the same class.
Centre-back: John Terry
Captaining our Chelsea-United XI would be John Terry.
After all these years at the top, he's still No. 1 and there isn't a defender at Manchester United who can compare to Terry's quality.
Indeed, he's a major reason why our back four consists of Chelsea players only.
Terry sets the standard and those around him fall in line. He's a true leader.
Chelsea's defence has been excellent this term and when we consider what United have as alternatives—despite their recently improved form—they remain a shadow of Terry and his teammates.
This will be a quick one.
There isn't a better defensive midfielder in the Premier League right now than Nemanja Matic.
The Serbian has changed the dynamic of Chelsea's midfield, reinstalling the grit and authority they had lacked until his return to Stamford Bridge.
Michael Carrick is known for his passing ability, but he doesn't match Matic in the way he bosses a game.
We need only recall any of Andy Tate's many rants last season to appreciate how much Marouane Fellaini has transformed his Manchester United career.
The Belgian struggled in his debut campaign at Old Trafford, but now he is essential to Louis van Gaal's team.
Fellaini scores goals and just as importantly, he gets about the opposition and intimidates them.
A midfield duo of Fellaini and Matic would bulldoze teams, especially with the form both are in right now.
There's an argument for including Cesc Fabregas over Fellaini, but in recent months, the Belgian has been so influential, it would be harsh to overlook him.
It's current form, remember.
Right: Ashley Young
He normally operates on the left, but that side already belongs to a very special player in our Chelsea-United XI.
That said, Ashley Young's recent form can't go unnoticed.
Only last week he was majestic against Manchester City, scoring United's equaliser and bagging himself two assists.
Young seems to have got his confidence back and is doing all the things that got him his move to United from Aston Villa. He's running at players, taking them on and causing havoc on the flanks.
He's not the most glamorous of names, but there's no doubting his recent performances put him above Willian and Juan Cuadrado for a position on the right.
Centre: Juan Mata
Did Jose Mourinho make a mistake in picking Oscar as his No. 10 over Juan Mata?
Given their contrasting performances since Christmas, there's gathering momentum to suggest that he did.
Oscar has totally dropped off again since Christmas for Chelsea. He's reduced to having brief moments in matches now, whereas we're used to seeing him be a major influence from the off.
It's the third successive season we've seen it.
Since Christmas, though, Mata has been getting more game time and he's beginning to show he was worth the £37.1 million United paid Chelsea for him.
He was the catalyst in last month's 2-1 win over Liverpool, scoring both goals, and it's no coincidence that United's form has picked up now that Mata's playing to his best.
He's the type of player Chelsea could do with right now.
Left: Eden Hazard
There isn't a player in the current Manchester United team—or indeed elsewhere in the Premier League—who can match Eden Hazard right now.
He's been phenomenal all season and while those around him may have seen their form dip, Hazard continues to perform at an incredible level.
The Belgian is Chelsea's main asset and without him, this team would struggle.
Hazard is direct, takes hits for his team and brings so many others into play.
As QPR showed last week, defences must be switched on for the entire game when Hazard is around. If they're not, he will punish them like he did Rangers with his 88th-minute assist for Cesc Fabregas to score the winner.
If Diego Costa hadn't spent half of 2015 on the sidelines either suspended or injured, he would probably be leading the line in our combined Chelsea-United XI.
That position belongs to Wayne Rooney, however, who has been among the goals and back to his influential best.
With seven goals in all competitions since the turn of the year, he's the most prolific striker at either club right now and every team needs a goalscorer.