Title chasing Manchester City and Liverpool dominated the The Professional Footballers’ Association’s team of the year when it was announced on Thursday but there was a surprise inclusion for Paul Pogba.
The Manchester United player was included in the final XI despite a disappointing season for his side, who lost 2-0 to City on Wednesday night to remain in sixth side.
Raheem Sterling is among six City representatives while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are two of four inclusions from Liverpool.
However, Mohamed Salah is not among that number while Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard is also a surprise omission, despite being on the six-man shortlist for the Players’ Player of the Year award.
City’s enviable attacking options have been at the heart of their title defence and Sergio Agüero has once again led the line with aplomb. The Argentinian, currently the joint top-scorer in the league alongside Salah and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 19 goals this season, is the only player to retain his position in the PFA side from 12 months ago.
Agüero edged out Harry Kane, who is absent from the list for the first time in five seasons.
Raheem Sterling makes his first appearance in the PFA XI to supplement Agüero in attack, having found the net 17 times and provided 10 assists, while Liverpool’s Sadio Mané – with 18 goals so far this term – completes the forward line.
The front trio are all in contention for the Players’ Player award – as is Bernardo Silva, who has earned rave reviews for his performances in City’s midfield.
The Portuguese’s City team-mate Fernandinho also lines up in midfield, as does Pogba, despite featuring for United during their recent dip in form under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Aymeric Laporte, who signed for City in January 2018 for a then club record fee of £57m, breaks up the Liverpool hegemony in the back four. Virgil van Dijk, who joined Liverpool in a record £75m transfer in the same month Laporte completed his move to City, has been a reassuring and instrumental presence in the Reds’ back line.
The Dutchman will be a strong contender to win the Players’ Player award and he partners Laporte at centre-back, with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson occupying the full-back berths.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker has conceded two fewer goals and kept two more clean sheets than City counterpart and Brazilian compatriot Ederson.
But it is Ederson who takes the number one jersey with the PFA, which will honour the players at its annual awards ceremony in London on Sunday 28 April.
Team in full (4-3-3)
Ederson (Manchester City); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Andy Robertson (Liverpool); Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City); Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Sergio Agüero (Manchester City), Sadio Mané (Liverpool).