Manchester United vs Liverpool is arguably the biggest fixture in the Premier League.
While Chelsea and Manchester City might be more widely fancied for the title this season, you can rest assured that the biannual meeting of the north-west giants never loses its gravity or weight.
Man Utd vs Liverpool
And ahead of their latest meeting in the world’s greatest league on Sunday afternoon, we wanted to look back on the two clubs’ illustrious history since English football was changed forever in 1992.
To do so, we’re taking the well-worn concept of the combined XI, but we’re widening the net to the Premier League era as a whole, so any Liverpool and United alumni across that epoch is eligible for selection.
Man Utd vs Liverpool Preview (Football Terrace)
Intriguing, right? You bet, because so many world-class players have sat in the dressing rooms of the two clubs over the last 29 years that cutting them all down to a starting XI was near-impossible.
And in a way, it really is impossible because there is no objective way to compare and contrast so many Liverpool and United icons, which means that you’ll have to put up with my humble opinion.
Best players of the Premier League era
However, fear not, because my subjective judgements will be informed by both Premier League statistics and the good old eye test before we take to guttural instincts on some of the tougher calls.
That being said, seeing as this is about individual players, it’s important to note that I’m paying more attention to a player’s quality at their zenith in England than the overall significance pinned upon the sides that they played in.
In other words, I’m not going to pooh-pooh Mohamed Salah scoring 32 goals in 2017/18 because Liverpool finished fourth when compared to, say, Ryan Giggs amassing just two assists in the year that United won the treble.
Combined Liverpool and United XI since 1992
But enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping because we know you’re all here for the combined XI, so prepare yourself for controversial galore by checking out my selections below:
GK: Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United)
Shoutout to Alisson Becker and Edwin van der Sar, but Schmeichel was simply a cut above as the world’s best goalkeeper in a lucrative United spell that reaped five league titles in seven seasons.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Did Gary Neville ever reach the dizzying heights that Alexander-Arnold did as the world’s best right-back? As much as he’s an undoubted Premier League legend, the answer is ‘nope’ in my eyes.
The Liverpool star is the only right-back in Premier League history to earn a Ballon d’Or nomination and boasts the same number of assists in the competition as his United rival in 265 fewer games.
CB: Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
The only defender to win the Premier League Player of the Season award twice, Vidic was nothing short of talismanic in five title triumphs and oversaw United’s record-breaking run of 14 consecutive clean sheets.
CB: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
It feels dirty not to include Jaap Stam or Rio Ferdinand, it does, but it’s tough to argue that a Premier League centre-back has ever dominated quite as much as Van Dijk has in recent years.
After all, this is the man who only lost the Ballon d’Or by six votes for a season so immense that he wasn’t dribbled past once and romped his way to the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
LB: Denis Irwin (Manchester United)
Sorry, Andrew Robertson, but this was a close run thing between Irwin and Patrice Evra, but we’ve narrowly given the nod to arguably the most underrated player in Premier League history with seven league titles.
CM: Roy Keane (Manchester United)
There can simply be no better candidate than the greatest captain in Premier League history to anchor our midfield because as brilliant as Fabinho has been under Jurgen Klopp, he’s not at Keane’s level yet.
CM: Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
Lauded by everyone from Pele to Xavi and Zinedine Zidane to Luis Figo, we’d be mad not to include one of the most technically gifted and decorated players that the Premier League has ever seen.
CM: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
The swashbuckling captain who almost single-handedly won Champions League and FA Cup titles for the Reds strolls into our XI regardless of the inevitable ‘he never won a league title’ gags.
But even if you wanted to be infuriatingly cynical about an all-time footballing great, surely we can agree that none of United’s central midfielders beyond Scholes and Keane can feasibly top him?
RW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
As thoroughly underrated as David Beckham was, Salah is simply in a league of his own as a two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner with the goalscoring record for a 38-game season.
Marry that to just how out-of-this-world the Egyptian has been in 2021/22 with 12 goals in 11 games already and any argument that Beckham should take his place comes apart at the seams.
ST: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Sound the controversy alarm because Suarez has beaten a long line of United greats to take our number nine slot, though it’s worth saying that Ruud van Nistelrooy came inches away from getting the nod.
However, for all of the Dutchman’s staggering finishing, nothing he ever produced at United could possibly compete with Suarez amassing 31 goals and 12 assists in just 33 games in his final season.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
One of only two Ballon d’Or winners in Premier League history and arguably the greatest goalscorer that the sport has ever seen, Ronaldo surely rounds off our line-up without a hint of controversy.
How would your XI shape up?
Maybe it’s a hard pill to swallow for United fans that five Liverpool players make the cut when the Reds have won no less than 12 fewer Premier League titles.
However, while there’s certainly an argument to be had that longevity is king, it doesn’t mean that the dizzying peaks of Van Dijk and Salah are irrelevant by way of being comparatively briefer.
Or to put it another way, a United player being 8/10 for 10 seasons on the bounce would still average out the same as a Liverpool star undulating at 7/10, 7/10, 10/10, 9/10 and 7/10.
Then again, if you disagree, perhaps the point here is that Liverpool’s finest players give credence to the quote: “A light that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” when compared to United’s.