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Combined XI: Arsenal vs. Manchester United

Ahead of the New Year's Day showdown between Arsenal and Manchester United, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from both squads.

The opening day of the new decade sees one of the Premier League's most storied rivalries enter its latest chapter as Arsenal welcome Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium.

Both clubs have suffered disappointing seasons so far but are hoping that they are on course to restore their former glories under ex-players, although it is United who go into the game in much the better form.

Only Liverpool picked up more points than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side over the final six league games of 2019, whereas Arsenal have only won one of their last 15 outings across all competitions.

It is safe to say that games between these two sides are a long way from their heyday at this stage, but here Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from both current squads, using only the players available for this match.

Combined XI: ARS vs. MNU

It speaks volumes about the form Arsenal are in right now that Manchester United have their lowest points tally at this stage of a season since 1989-90 but still provide 10 of the 11 players in this team.

The entire defensive unit comes from Solskjaer's side, with United having conceded 23 goals to Arsenal's 30, and one of the easiest decisions comes in goal where David de Gea beats Bernd Leno. Both have made notable howlers in recent weeks, but De Gea remains one of the most talent keepers in the world, whereas Leno has not yet proved himself to be at that level.

In fairness to Arsenal, their options are limited by injuries, and that is particularly true in defence where Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney are all either ruled out or considered doubtful for this match.

David Luiz was the only real contender for a place in the back four from the Arsenal players available, then, but his tendency to make rash decisions sees the more reliable duo of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof partner up.

The Gunners are especially depleted at full-back, where Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have had to act as makeshift defenders in recent weeks, meaning that the main competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw comes from within their own team.

Paul Pogba is expected to return for this match and so is an immediate inclusion in the XI, having already shown glimpses of his special talent in his brief appearances since returning from an injury of his own.

With Scott McTominay injured, the revitalised Fred partners Pogba in the centre of midfield, narrowly seeing off Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka in recognition of his vast improvement in recent weeks.

The attacking talent on display forces us into a 4-4-2 formation, which means that Daniel James pips Mesut Ozil to a place in the team. Ozil was influential against Chelsea last time out but still needs to show more having provided just one assist this season, compared to six assists and three goals for James.

It is a more straightforward choice on the other flank with Marcus Rashford in fine goalscoring form lately, netting 12 times and creating four more in his 20 Premier League appearances to already storm past his previous career best for league goals in a single campaign.

Rashford on the left means that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moves up front, beating teammate Alexandre Lacazette to be the only Arsenal representative in this team courtesy of his 13 league goals to Lacazette's five.

Alongside him is another of United's in-form attackers, with Anthony Martial having scored seven times and assisted three more in the league so far this season, including three goals in his last two.


Who will win the Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United on New Year's Day?

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on December 1, 2019
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