The curtain comes down on the English domestic season this weekend as Manchester United meet Chelsea at Wembley.
Both sides fell well short in their aim to compete for the Premier League title, raising the importance of the cup as it leaves them with their only chance of procuring silverware from two pretty frustrating respective campaigns.
David De Gea (Manchester United). In most other combined elevens, Thibaut Courtois would be one of the first names on the teamsheet, but there is arguably no better goalkeeper in the world than De Gea right now. 18 clean sheets, club player of the year and a PFA Player of the Year nomination – the Spaniard is head and shoulders above the competition.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United). Valenica has morphed from a tricky winger to a solid, dependable right-back in recent years, and has made the position his own under Mourinho. His performances have been steadily good and he has chipped in with some spectacular goals – but as the Ecuador international will be 33 by the time the season starts, his role as an automatic starter may be under threat sooner rather than later.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea). A model of dependency and consistency, Azpilicueta rarely has a bad performance. Still operating on the right side of a back three, the former Marseille man provides a link between defence and midfield that few can match.
Eric Bailly (Manchester United). Hopes were high that the Ivory Coast international could kick on after a fine debut season at Old Trafford, but injuries have seriously curtailed his progress in the side. Bailly started just 11 Premier League games in the last campaign, but when fully fit he is arguably one of the best centre-backs in the division.
Marcos Alonso (Chelsea). A surprise choice in the PFA Team of the Year perhaps, but Alonso was one of the most dependable defenders/wing-backs in the league last season. Solid in defence and a threat going forward, if were Chelsea players were as consistent as Alonso then they might not have finished fifth last season.
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United). In a team that is built not to concede, along with Paul Pogba’s penchant for drifting forward, the presence of Matic in the midfield shielding the defence is vital. The battling Serbian international swapped one of these clubs for the other last season – and Chelsea’s loss has certainly been Man United’s gain.
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea). The 2017 Player of the Year has not quite scaled the heights of that season, not least because Chelsea as a team have not been performing at that level. Nonetheless, Kante is still a monstrously tenacious presence in the midfield, putting in almight shifts in terms of tackles and interceptions on a weekly basis.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United). That Pogba is adjudged to still not be entirely fulfiling his potential at Man United says more about his enormously high ceiling than his actual performances. Pogba has chipped in with six goals and 10 assists in a season where, despite a bit of tension with Mourinho at the turn of the year, he has started to look a bit more comfortable in what is expected of him.
Anthony Martial (Manchester United). If Martial was frustrated before, missing out on France’s World Cup squad will have heightened that exponentially. The 22-year-old saw his season disrupted by the January signing of Alexis Sanchez – an arrival that has yet to justify shifting Martial either out of position or on to the bench. His talent and potential deserve much better than that.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea). The Belgian has, once again, been one of the few shining lights in a season disrupted by managerial turbulence and indifferent team performances. His 12 Premier League goals were not enough to stop the Blues from slipping out of the top four and although he has suggested he may stay at Stamford Bridge, his talents are far above Europe League level.
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United). The Belgian striker hasn’t let the hefty £75m+ price tag get the better of him, and it cannot be argued than in the battle to secure either him or Alvarto Morata, Man United got the better end of the deal. A record-high career total of 27 goals this season is a very solid foundation to build upon.