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The top-of-the-table rivals clash at Old Trafford on Monday night with the destination of the Premier League title all but decided, but who makes our starting lineup?

DEBATE
By Oliver Platt

Manchester United have all but sewn up the Premier League title but Monday night's derby against Manchester City remains a mouthwatering prospect.

City will be desperate to restore some pride having fallen well behind the club they topped in the most dramatic style in 2011-12, and another setback could further threaten manager Roberto Mancini's future at the Etihad Stadium.

The Italian has plenty of talent to call upon, and so does his counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson, but which players would feature in a combined line-up? Goal.com picks its best Manchester XI...

GOALKEEPER


We are faced with a number of dilemmas in selecting this team and they begin in goal, where, after an outstanding 2011-12 season, Joe Hart has been quickly pegged back by an ever-improving David de Gea.

De Gea has come under fire on a regular basis since joining United from Atletico Madrid but he has made just two errors in the Premier League this season to his City counterpart's five.

With a porous defence in front of him during the first half of the campaign, the Spaniard frequently came to the rescue of his team-mates and since the turn of the year he has been the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper behind a a vastly improved and almost impenetrable unit.

We should not be too harsh on Hart, though; he has still kept 14 clean sheets in 30 matches and still protects the goal of the tightest defence in the league. He gets the nod for now, but the gap is rapidly closing.

DEFENCE


Pablo Zabaleta has been acclaimed all season and rightly so; he has become a true source of leadership at City and that has been particularly important in the absence of Vincent Kompany. The statistics, though, are impossible to ignore, and they demonstrate - perhaps surprisingly - that Rafael is just as effective in the tackle, gets beaten less and creates more chances.

There is plenty of experience and leadership available in central defence, anyway. Vincent Kompany's season has been broken up by injury and he has not quite hit the heights of the previous campaign, but he remains impossible to overlook - he is the perfect mix of pace, power, intelligence and authority.

Rio Ferdinand's reinvention wins him the second centre-back spot and his more composed style, relying less on his fading athleticism and more on his ability to anticipate the play, makes him the ideal partner for the more aggressive Belgian. Whether partnered with Nemanja Vidic or Jonny Evans, the 34-year-old provides a safety net when others are beaten.

Vidic and Evans are unfortunate to miss out, as is Matija Nastasic, City's hugely impressive 20-year-old centre-back who has unseated Joleon Lescott this term.

As was the case on the opposite side of the pitch, left-back is a closely contested berth. It is really a matter of preference; Patrice Evra is a more active attacker but more prone to mistakes, with Gael Clichy a more reliable option in his own half of the pitch. Having selected the adventurous Rafael at right-back, we play it safe and plump for the former Arsenal man.

MIDFIELD


There is plenty of competition for places in defence and attack, but our three midfielders almost pick themselves. Anchoring the trio is Michael Carrick, who has established himself as one of the finest deep-lying playmakers in the league.

The 31-year-old has withstood the physical tolls of competition on four fronts - he has already made 44 appearances in all competitions when England internationals are included - and improved his defensive game to complement his natural ball-playing skills.

Providing physicality and forward thrust alongside Carrick is Yaya Toure. The Ivorian was as instrumental as any City player in their title triumph last season, with his two-goal performance in the penultimate game of the season against Newcastle particularly memorable.

Like Kompany and Hart, Toure has not always hit the heights of 2011-12 but his new four-year contract is evidence that he will remain an integral member of the squad under the new plans of Txiki Begiristain.

Supporting the attack is the Premier League's finest pure playmaker in David Silva. Juan Mata may have overtaken his compatriot in terms of all-round efficiency over the past year but Silva's capacity to unlock a defence remains unmatched. He has created more chances and clear-cut chances than Mata, is a better crosser of the ball and a more dangerous dribbler.

Plenty of talent misses the cut - Shinji Kagawa is quickly growing into life in England, while Samir Nasri has the talent but has endured a disappointing season. Antonio Valencia, Gareth Barry, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young are also on the fringes.

ATTACK


After a slow start in front of goal, Wayne Rooney has enjoyed an impressively productive season while a certain other Manchester United striker has claimed most of the spotlight. The England striker has 12 goals and nine assists in 17 starts and four substitute appearances; over a 38-game season, he would be on course for more than 20 goals.

That would be his third 20-goal campaign out of the last four, and he is still set to notch 20 in all competitions for the fifth time. Rooney has the most impressive Premier League resume of any striker available for this XI, and is therefore a straightforward choice despite the high level of competition.

It is impossible to ignore Robin van Persie, too, although the Dutchman enters the derby frustrated in front of goal. Van Persie has not scored in the league since the victory over Everton on February 10, but three goals in two games for the Netherlands and an 'assist' on an own goal against Sunderland hint at a man getting back on the right track.

Hauling in Luis Suarez for the Golden Boot will be difficult but with 19 goals, Van Persie is the top scorer in Manchester by some distance. While Chicharito and Danny Welbeck have played important roles for United, that leaves the City trio of Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero vying for the final place in our XI.

It has been a difficult season for Aguero - like fellow second-season syndrome sufferers Nikica Jelavic and Papiss Cisse, the Argentine's chance-conversion rate has dropped off significantly - but his blistering 2011-12 campaign, most would agree, is more indicative of his true ability.

Injuries have slowed him down this term, and with that taken into account his record of nine league goals in 22 appearances - 18 of which have been starts - does not read so badly. At full fitness, he is as menacing a proposition as any striker in the country.

Suggested combined Manchester United & Manchester City XI

GOALKEEPER

Joe Hart

RIGHT-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
LEFT-BACK

Rafael

Vincent Kompany

Rio Ferdinand

Gael Clichy
CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD

Yaya Toure

Michael Carrick

David Silva
RIGHT FORWARD
CENTRE FORWARD
LEFT FORWARD

Sergio Aguero

Robin van Persie

Wayne Rooney

HAVE YOUR SAY

Do you agree with our combined Manchester United and Manchester City XI? Who do you think is deserving of a place in the lineup? Do any unsung heroes merit inclusion?

Let us know your views by posting a comment below or by getting in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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