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Thierry Henry.

Manchester United v Arsenal: The combined Premier League XI

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Manchester United take on Arsenal on Sunday afternoon in a match that pits two of England’s most decorated teams against each other.

The days of the late 1990s through to the early 2000s - where United and Arsenal were in direct competition for the Premier League title (between 1998 and 2003, the teams finished first and second in five out of six seasons) - are long gone, thanks to the rise of Manchester City and Chelsea and the fall of the Red Devils.

While the Gunners remain in pursuit of a 14 league title this season, their rivals from Manchester are toiling in sixth place, 15 points adrift of the leaders.

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Yet the fixture remains one of the most mouth-watering in the calendar. It’s served up some of the most memorable images in Premier League history - who can forget Martin Keown confronting Ruud van Nistelrooy after the Dutchman missed a penalty in 2003, or Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane's infamous row in the tunnel in 2005?

Ah, the memories.

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Not only is the rivalry is fierce, but both teams have put out some fine players over the years. We’ve come up with a combined XI from the Premier League era for you to enjoy and debate with the ferocity of a Vieira-Keane duel.

Goalkeeper

Choosing the no.1 is perhaps the toughest selection to make. In one corner sits Peter Schmeichel, in the other Petr Cech.

Arsenal’s goalkeeper broke the record for most clean sheets in Premier League history in December but all of his success has come while defending Chelsea’s goal, not the Gunners’. Cech won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League during an 11-year stay at the Blues before joining the north London outfit last summer.

Still, we’re going with the 33-year-old ahead of the Dane. He’s instilled much-needed steel to Arsenal’s defence and can probably be considered the Gunners’ difference-maker.

That’s high praise for a goalkeeper.

Winner: Petr Cech

Stoke City v Arsenal - Premier League

Right-back

Zinedine Zidane selected Gary Neville in his all-time Premier League XI, and who are we to argue with Zizou?

The current Valencia boss wore his heart on his sleeve and won eight Premier League titles during a 19-year stay at Old Trafford.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Winner: Gary Neville

UEFA Champions League: Benfica v Manchester United

Centre-backs

To be as successful as United and Arsenal were around the turn of the century, they needed a resolute pair at the heart of defence. Manchester City are finding that out this season.

Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are United’s best options, while Tony Adams and Sol Campbell hold the torch for the Gunners.

For the sheer desire to have a perfect blend of pace, ball-playing ability, leadership and resiliency, Ferdinand and Adams are the guys. One warranted a transfer fee of £30 million 14 years ago while the other was called a “professor of defence” by Wenger.

Winners: Rio Ferdinand & Tony Adams

Manchester United v Liverpool

Tony Adams

Left-back

Ashley Cole is the finest left-back of the Premier League era, let alone the best Manchester United and Arsenal have offered. An easy choice.

Winner: Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole, Juan Sanchez

Midfielders

As enticing as it is to pick Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, we fear this team wouldn’t ever finish a game with 11 players.

Paul Scholes pulled the strings for Sir Alex Ferguson’s United and was one of the most technically gifted players England has produced.

Alongside Scholes, it has to be either Vieira or Keane. The most important attributes the duo brought - which perhaps was a bigger contribution than the talent - was leadership and passion.

The Frenchman was the ultimate box-to-box player and he glided past defenders in such an assuring manner. He was intimidating, commanding and better technically than his Irish foe. Therefore, Vieira gets the nod.

Winners: Paul Scholes & Patrick Vieira

Manchester United's English midfielder P

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal

RIGHT-WING

Cristiano Ronaldo won his first Ballon d’Or trophy in 2008 after his 42 goals helped United to a Premier League and Champions League double.

Taken his achievements at Real Madrid into account, he is the best player to have ever graced England’s top division.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United c

No. 10

Neither Manchester United or Arsenal made full use of a no. 10 during the early part of the century as Ferguson and Wenger both opted for traditional 4-4-2 formations.

Today Juan Mata and Mesut Ozil occupy the role behind the striker in each team and of the two, Ozil is the better candidate for a berth in the team.

But for sheer artistry, we're calling Dennis "The Iceman" Bergkamp's number. The Dutchman was a genius and Thierry Henry described him as "a dream for a striker". 

Winner: Dennis Bergkamp

Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp (R) celebrates

Left-wing

There is only one man who can fill the position on the left wing. A nightmare for right-backs, this flying winger made 963 appearances for his club and is the most decorated player in the English game after winning 34 trophies.

If you haven’t guessed already, it’s Ryan Giggs.

Winner: Ryan Giggs

Kaizer Chiefs v Manchester United

Striker

The place for the most coveted spot in the team is between Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry.

The pair sit second and fifth respectively in the Premier League’s all-time leading scorers list and both have been named to FIFA’s FIFPro World XI team.

They each have Premier League and Champions League winners medals (although Henry won his while at Barcelona), so it’s worthless to choose one based on their list of honours.

Instead, we will go for the most transcendent player of the two. And it’s Henry.

The Frenchman, who scored 228 goals for the Gunners, was unlike any striker England has ever seen and, until the day where such an exquisite forward comes along, ever will see.

He was creative, skilful and very often unplayable. Just check out the compilation video below to see why Lionel Messi claimed he was “really lucky” to have played with Henry.

Winner: Thierry Henry

The team

MNU-ARS XI

Who would make your United-Arsenal all-time XI? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Topics:
Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo
Ryan Giggs
Premier League
Thierry Henry
Wayne Rooney
Football
Arsenal

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