Man United's best XI of the season so far: No place for Angel Di Maria or Juan Mata
Predicting a Manchester United starting XI this season has been near impossible - even manager Louis van Gaal has often appeared perplexed over who he should play.
However, with 30 Premier League games now under their belts this season, analysis by The Independent indicates who should be starting the final eight games of the campaign if Manchester United are to stand the best chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Our friends at Whoscored.com produce a rating for every player, based on every aspect of their performances in the Premier League this season. The figure is considered among the most accurate, respected and well-known performance indicators in the world of football. Exact details on how it is calculated can be found here.
Using the tool, Manchester United's best starting XI can be determined, offering Van Gaal guidance on who should be in his side as they look to clinch a finish in the top four.
The results produce some intriguing findings, with the most expensive signing in British transfer history, Angel Di Maria, failing to warrant a place. Another big-money summer signing, Luke Shaw, also fails to make it in, whilst perhaps less surprisingly, troubled striker Radamel Falcao is also excluded from the 4-4-2 formation.
Check out Manchester United's best XI of the season so far below...
David De Gea - 6.77
Never any doubt that the Spanish stopper would be in goal. Been brilliant this season.
Antonio Valencia - 7.24
Injuries have seen the former Wigan player deployed at right-back for much of the season and he comes out on top among the possible options.
Phil Jones - 7.46
Manchester United's defence was much derided at the start of the campaign but Jones has played a major role in silencing the critics and actually scores the highest of all Manchester United's players.
Chris Smalling - 7.34
Alongside Jones is Smalling - another who's appeared more assured as the campaign has progressed. That centre-back pairing sees Jonny Evans and Paddy McNair miss out.
Marcos Rojo - 7.30
The Argentina international has begun to show why the club forked out £16m and allowed Nani to go to Sporting Lisbon to bring him to Old Trafford. Rojo scores much higher than his most direct competitor for the left-back berth, £27m signing Luke Shaw (6.80).
Ander Herrera - 7.24
The summer signing from Athletic Bilbao has shown an eye for goal as well as a pass this season, which is why despite playing less than Juan Mata (6.86), he snatches the right-sided midfielder position.
Marouane Fellaini - 7.34
Despite being mocked in some circles for his rough and ready style following his move from Everton, under Louis van Gaal, Fellaini has shown just how effective he can be which is why he claims a central midfield berth.
Daley Blind - 7.30
Alongside Fellaini is Netherlands international Blind, who scores higher than the alternative central midfielder, Michael Carrick (7.05).
Ashley Young - 7.22
Despite an outlay of £59.7m on Angel Di Maria, it is former Watford and Aston Villa player Ashley Young who has done more to justify a place on the left side of midfield so far this season. After a lively start, Di Maria's performances have dipped alarmingly, leaving him with a score of 7.18.
Wayne Rooney - 7.36
The captain has been consistent throughout the season, despite being shifted from one position to another by an indecisive Van Gaal. Rates as Manchester United's second best player this season after Jones.
Robin van Persie - 7.21
Despite a stop-start season hit by injuries and exclusion from the team, Van Persie still scores much higher than on-loan Colombian Radamel Falcao (6.78), meaning the Dutchman claims the second striker position and completes the best XI of the season so far.
Independent News Service