The Premier League’s winter break ends with a bang in less than a week, as a huge clash of giants is on tap when Chelsea play host to Manchester United in what should be a pivotal game.Both sides are desperate to cement a spot in the Premier League’s top 4, but while they’re still two of the league’s best sides, it’s safe to say that the past was a better time for both clubs, as it was their rivalry that dominated England’s top flight just over a decade ago, reaching its peak when they faced off in the 2008 Champions League final.
Both the Blues and the Red Devils can count some of the Premier League’s greatest ever players amongst their past teams, and here we look at an all-time combined starting XI from the two clubs, playing in a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
Despite keepers like Edwin van der Sar, David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois playing for the two sides, this spot was an almost impossible call to make between United’s legendary Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and Chelsea’s brilliant Petr Cech.
At their peaks, both men were widely considered the best shot-stopper in the world, and you simply can’t argue with the honours that both men won; 5 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups and 1 Champions League for Schmeichel, and 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 1 Champions League and 1 Europa League for Cech.
While it’s arguable that in his prime, Schmeichel was very slightly better – his saves won some huge games for United, most notably his showing in their pivotal 1-0 win over Newcastle in 1996 – I’m going with Cech here purely for his insane 2004-05 season. The Czech international let in just 15 goals all season, and kept a Premier League record 24 clean sheets in the process.
Fullbacks: Gary Neville and Ashley Cole
The Premier League has seen flashier right-backs than Manchester United’s Gary Neville, but none can really match the Red Devils’ academy product for sheer consistency and solid defending over a long period of time. During his periods of full fitness, the England international rarely missed a game for United over a period of 15 seasons at Old Trafford after establishing himself as their first choice in the position during the 1995-96 campaign.
By the time of his retirement in 2011, Neville had completed over 600 appearances for the Red Devils, keeping 148 clean sheets and registering 35 assists in Premier League action in the process while also winning 15 major trophies.
At left-back meanwhile, you simply can’t look past Chelsea legend Ashley Cole. A teammate of Neville’s with the England national team, Cole joined the Blues from Arsenal in the summer of 2006 and immediately slotted into then-manager Jose Mourinho’s starting XI, and didn’t really lose his place until the 2013-14 season.
Over the course of his 8 seasons with the Blues, Cole was a truly world-class performer, appearing in well over 300 games for Chelsea and helping them to the Premier League title in 2009-10, the Champions League in 2011-12 and 7 other honours. He was named Chelsea Players’ Player of the year on two occasions.