Payet and Herrera omitted: Best combined West Ham and Manchester United XI
COMMENT By Matt Farr
A revitalised West Ham go up against in-form Manchester United at the Olympic Stadium on Monday, but who makes their combined XI?
Hammers assist master Dimitri Payet is the most glaring omission from the best combined XI, with West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio getting the nod on the right-wing at his expense.
Payet stole the show in the first-half of 2016, contributing goals and assists at a premium, before being one of the stars at the European Championships with France.
However, since the start of the current campaign, Payet has been out of sorts, and despite contributing three goals and eight assists from 20 appearances, has not been at his best.
Antonio, meanwhile, has filled in where Payet hasn’t, and has replaced him as West Ham’s central figure. Playing in a variety of different positions this season, including at right-back, Antonio has scored eight goals in 25 appearances, leading the way for the Hammers in front of goal.
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Given that is where he has played for much of the season, there was a strong case to include Michail Antonio at right-back. However, his strengths this season have been in the attacking-third, so that is where he has been stationed in our team.
Darren Randolph has been very impressive for West Ham in recent weeks, but David De Gea is one of the best in the world, and cannot be overlooked for the No.1 jersey in the best combined XI.
The 26-year-old Spaniard has kept seven clean sheets this season in all competitions, compared to Randolph’s four.
The full-backs are an issue that needs sorting out for Manchester United. Jose Mourinho has a wealth of options – including Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian – but the constant rotation suggests he is not quite happy with his resources.
Shaw has struggled with injuries during his Old Trafford career, and has made just seven Premier League appearances this term. His West Ham counterpart Aaron Cresswell, meanwhile, has been a much more regular figure, and earns the left-back spot.
At right-back is United’s Phil Jones. Primarily a centre-back, Jones’s versatility means he can also be used at right-back and in midfield. He missed the start of the season with injury, but has since returned to be a consistent performer in United’s defence.
Old Trafford team-mate Eric Bailly and West Ham’s Winston Reid complete the back-four. Bailly has been impressive since arriving from Villarreal in the summer, and has clear potential to be a Premier League star defender.
He will big a huge miss for United when he departs for the Africa Cup of Nations. Reid, meanwhile, has been part of a West Ham defence that has conceded just four goals in their last five league games.
The Hammers have been under a lot of pressure this season, both in games and in their results, but Reid has always looked calm and assured, which has done wonders for his team’s confidence.
Often the unsung hero at United, Michael Carrick earns a place in the midfield. Even at 35-years-old, the veteran midfielder is one of the hardest workers in the Premier League, and still has the quality to hold down a regular first-team position at Old Trafford.
While Ander Herrera is having an impressive season, United would probably still be where they are in the league without him. The same can’t be said, however, for West Ham and Mark Noble.
As leader and midfield maestro, Noble’s responsibilities at the Olympic Stadium are endless. He is often knocking on the door of the England setup, which is testament to his displays over the past year.
Unsurprisingly, Paul Pogba also makes the cut. After re-joining the club for a whopping £89 million in the summer, the Frenchman made a slow start. However, he has since sprung to life and has six goals and four assists from 25 games in all competitions.
Henrik Mkhitaryan has had a similar season. The ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder endured a long wait for a run in the first-team, making only intermittent starts under Mourinho.
He too has drawn the plaudits of late, putting in man-of-the-match displays against Feyenoord and West Ham, on his way to contributing three goals and two assists from 14 appearances.
Given that is where he has played for much of the season, there was a strong case to include Michail Antonio at right-back. However, his strengths this season have been in the attacking-third, so that is where he has been put.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads the line in the absence of a prolific West Ham goalscoring forward. After much debate, the 35-year-old has proven to be a worthy addition to the United ranks, netting 17 goals from 27 games, including four goals and three assists from his last four Premier League appearances.
Overall, four West Ham players make the cut in a largely Manchester United-based combined XI. As for the outcome of the game between the two sides on Monday, United are expected to come out on top – despite needing a late rally to come from behind and beat Middlesbrough on Saturday.
In other West Ham news, Andy Carroll has responded to speculation linking him with a move to China.