Manchester United head into their clash with Chelsea on Sunday in disarray, having sacked manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following their 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Watford last time out in the Premier League.
Caretaker (for the caretaker) boss Michael Carrick helped United earn a morale-boosting victory in the Champions League on Tuesday night, but the club’s problems are still piled high.
The hunt for Solskjaer’s temporary replacement looks to have been closed with the signing of Ralf Rangnick, but a permanent solution must still be found. Meanwhile, on the pitch several key players are badly out of form, talisman Bruno Fernandes has been dropped, and they are in desperate need of positive league results after suffering five defeats in their last seven games, including harrowing defeats by Liverpool and Manchester City.
Chelsea on the other hand have made a stunning start to the season and are three points clear at the top of the Premier League. However, they will be missing some important players when they welcome the Red Devils in a clash of the titans at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Sportsmail has picked a combined XI of players from both Chelsea and Manchester United – with the caveat that only players who are fit or available to play can be selected, so the likes of the injured Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante and Raphael Varane won’t be considered.
Chelsea arrive into this weekend’s clash as heavy favourites after a stunning start this season
Manchester United are coming off the back of a humiliating 4-1 defeat away at Watford
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
If there is any Manchester United player who deserves to be included in the team on recent performances, then it is surely David de Gea.
That might seem hard to believe when the Red Devils have been conceding goals for fun, but without their Spanish stopper this season could look a whole lot worse.
De Gea made a number of key saves again on Tuesday night, before United put Villarreal to the sword with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.
However, it would be wrong not to include Edouard Mendy, who has been probably the world’s best keeper in 2021.
The Blues have conceded just four league goals this season and the Senegal international has played a big part in that.
He has made a number of stunning saves and on current form looks almost unbeatable in the Chelsea goal.
Edouard Mendy has played a big part of Chelsea’s success under Thomas Tuchel in 2021
Reece James (Chelsea)
What more can be said about Reece James’s recent incredible form for Chelsea.
The 21-year-old has quickly gained a reputation as a tough, reliable defender since he first broke into the starting line-up.
What has been unexpected though is his output at the other end of the pitch with only Mo Salah contributing to more goals so far this season.
James is Chelsea’s top goalscorer with five in 14 games and he has also provided five assists. His goal against Juventus midweek was taken like he was an accomplished striker.
There seems to be no weaknesses to his game at the moment, while United’s right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has looked out-of-sorts so far this season.
Reece James took his goal against Juventus on Tuesday like an accomplished striker
Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Under former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, Antonio Rudiger looked as if his career at the club was over and struggled to make the bench at the start of last season.
However, since Tuchel’s appointment, Rudiger has been a pivotal member of Chelsea’s defence and remained an ever-present since the start of the year.
He has produced some confident and decisive displays so far this season and has arguably been the best performing centre-back in the league.
It seems incredible to think he could leave the club as a free agent at the end of the season with his contract in its final year.
Antonio Rudiger has produced some assured displays at the heart of Chelsea’s defence
Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
At 37 years old you would expect to have seen some form of regression from Thiago Silva at this stage of his career.
However, he has shown no signs of slowing down and alongside Rudiger has formed a rock-solid partnership as part of a back three under Thomas Tuchel.
Whether it’s Andreas Christensen, Trevoh Chalobah or Cesar Azpilicueta next to Rudiger and Silva, you always fancy Chelsea’s chances.
In the same time that United have conceded 17 goals in their last seven league games, Chelsea have let in just three.
On Sunday, it will be tough for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes to break down Chelsea’s brick wall of a defence.
Thiago Silva produced a magnificent goal-line clearance in their 4-0 win over Juventus
Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Last season any combined XI featuring Manchester United would have seen Luke Shaw walk into the squad.
On current form though he is very lucky to be part of this team after some woeful performances against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford.
His form will be something Michael Carrick and the incoming interim manager will be desperately looking to sort out.
The left-back should be in contention to start after missing United’s defeat to Villarreal after a concussion he suffered against Watford.
Ben Chilwell would have made this team with ease if not for the injury he sustained against Juventus.
Shaw has instead been picked over Marcos Alonso, who has either not been included in the squad or left on the bench in Chelsea’s last six Premier League games.
Luke Shaw should be available after missing United’s game against Villarreal as a precaution
After winning the Champions League, Euro 2020 and UEFA Player of the Year, Jorginho was a guaranteed pick after carrying over his excellent displays into the current season.
The Italian’s passing ability keep things ticking over in Chelsea’s midfield and his calmness in front of defence has been a great influence for the team.
He is the sort of player that United have been crying out for in recent times.
With the Ballon d’Or contender in midfield, he could help starve United of possession on Sunday.
Jorginho’s hard work in midfield gives Chelsea’s attacking players more freedom up front
Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Injuries to N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic mean Mason Mount would play in a slightly deeper midfield position than usual, which he has done on occasion in the past.
Mount is one of Chelsea’s most treasured players, though he hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season, scoring three goals in the league, all of which came in a 7-0 win over Norwich.
It has been a stop-start season so far for the 22-year-old but there is no doubt he’ll be back to his energetic best in the near future.
Mason Mount hasn’t quite hit top form yet despite Chelsea’s excellent start to the season
Dropped against Villarreal after a woeful performance against Watford capped a dismal drop in form, yet the Portuguese playmaker has registered four goals and nine assists in all competitions so far this season, which is why he makes this combined XI.
At the other end of the pitch he has made defensive mistakes, such as a poor back-pass which led to United giving away a penalty during their 4-1 defeat at Watford.
Fernandes is also not rushing out to close players down with anywhere near enough intensity, which led to Eric Bailly putting a Kyle Walker cross into the back of his own net during the Manchester derby.
Given this, were Kante fit he would have strolled into this team – and Kovacic would have got the nod too.
Despite that, Chelsea will still need to be wary of what such a gifted talent can provide at the attacking end of the pitch on Sunday – if he plays.
Bruno Fernandes has not been at his best but has still contributed to 13 goals this season
Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)
Hakim Ziyech has been in and out of Chelsea’s team ever since he joined the club from Ajax in the summer of 2020.
This season he has started just twice in the league but he has looked lively in recent games, providing assists in their victories over both Leicester and Juventus in the last week.
The Moroccan has been picked over Mason Greenwood, who has been quiet in recent weeks after his good start to the season.
He has also been chosen ahead of Jadon Sancho, who has had a tough start to life at Old Trafford – though the Red Devils will hope that his goal against Villarreal will be the start of a return to the player he was at Borussia Dortmund.
Hakim Ziyech gave two assists in the space of three days in wins over Leicester and Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo were seen as the two most exciting signings of the summer but it’s the Portuguese superstar who has had the upper hand in front of goal so far this season.
Ronaldo has looked frustrated at times since his return to Old Trafford and there have been occasions where he barely seems to be involved.
But it would be scary for United fans to think where they would be without some of his heroics in both the Premier League and Champions League so far this season.
He has scored 10 goals in all competitions and is always a threat, no matter how bad United are doing.
Chelsea on the other hand will still be without Lukaku, who has missed their last four league games with injury.
If United are to pull out a surprise on Sunday it will likely be due to Cristiano Ronaldo
Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)
Callum Hudson-Odoi, similar to Ziyech, has been in and out of Chelsea’s team due to their wide array of attacking talents.
It was a worrying start to the season for the youngster who was left on the bench in six of their opening eight league games this season.
Recently though he has been a regular in Tuchel’s side by starting in their last four Premier League games as well as their win over Juventus, in which he bagged a goal.
There was talk over the summer that he could leave the club due to his lack of game-time but he has proven in recent weeks that he can be a valuable asset, and will likely cause United’s struggling defence problems this weekend.
He has been selected over Marcus Rashford, whose performances especially in the defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford suggest he still has some way to get back to his best, despite his three goals since his return from injury.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has been more involved for Chelsea in recent weeks, and has shone
How our Chelsea vs Manchester United Combined XI looks ahead of Sunday’s game