Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher could only agree on six players when picking their Premier League teams of the season, while the Liverpool legend issued an apology to Manchester United supporters over Lisandro Martinez.
At the end of every campaign, both Neville and Carragher – synonymous with their full-blooded, no holds barred opinions – look back over the year just gone and name their best player, best signing, biggest surprise and standout XIs.
This season was no different, although, as usual, the duo’s sides took on contrasting looks. Indeed, both teams boast an assorted array of superstar attackers and stalwarts at the back, despite Neville and Carragher opting for identical midfields.
And during the segment, the latter also backtracked on his initial doubts over diminutive defender Martinez, who has proven himself a revelation at Old Trafford since joining from Ajax.
The standout part of the Monday Night Football show, though, came when the pair highlighted the players they believe have shone the most over the past nine months.
Gary Neville disagreed with colleague Jamie Carragher over picks in his team of the season
Carragher’s Mohamed Salah pick was questioned, while he apologised to Lisandro Martinez
In-form defender Martinez has been revelation since joining Manchester United from Ajax
There was a disagreement over Carragher’s inclusion of Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah, with Neville insisting the forward has dropped below his usual level.
But starting at the back and explaining his decision to pick Premier League champion Ruben Dias, Carragher said: ‘I think he’s been fantastic since he came to City. I love him as a defender. I remember at times he wasn’t playing.
‘When he comes back he’s got an intensity about him. When I think of City’s best centre back I think of Dias.’
Dias featured at the heart of a defence also featuring Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman and Oleksandr Zinchenko, while Alisson took up the spot between the sticks. Then, further forward, Martin Odegaard, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne also made the cut, with Salah, Harry Kane and Erling Haaland rounding off the team of superstars.
On Newcastle’s Botman, Carragher added: ‘He came in as a player that was linked with a lot of top clubs. He’s gone to Newcastle and they have the best defensive record in the league alongside Man City. He’s there week in week out, the amount of clean sheets.’
The Anfield great then continued: ‘I went with Zinchenko, he’s dropped off lately. But I can’t forget those months when he was taking huge responsibility and going into midfield, certainly against Man United. Him and [Gabriel] Jesus coming in initially lifted the level.
‘Kane has been unbelievable. Playing in one of the worst teams he’s played in, he has been out of this world. Has he had as good a season as Haaland? You could make an argument Kane has had as good a season as Haaland.’
On Carragher naming Salah despite a mixed year, Neville said: ‘I’d have Salah in it every season but this season I’ve picked someone else. When I’ve watched him play this season he hasn’t been anywhere near the level as normal.’
Neville and Carragher agreed on just six players, with the rest of their teams differing
Ruben Dias was named in both teams just days after securing yet another Premier League title
Erling Haalnd, the leading scorer in the top-flight, also unsurprisingly made the two sides
He then delved into his own side. Nick Pope was named as the goalkeeper, supported by Trippier, William Saliba, Dias and Brighton’s Pervis Estupinan. Intriguingly, he also selected the same midfield three as Carragher before choosing Haaland, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
‘I think Saka and Martinelli up until the last few weeks have lit up the league, they’ve been spectacular, they’ve been electric,’ Neville said.
‘I think it’s been really poor in the last few weeks, but for 30 games they were magical, they were at a different level than [Marcus] Rashford, Salah.
‘Those two have been spectacular and electric. Rashford’s got one more goal than Martinelli, I thought the way Martinelli and Saka have dovetailed is something I will remember from this season.
‘You can’t have Saliba as an excuse for that drop off but he’s had a fantastic season. I was never picking Salah over Saka this season. I’ve picked him for four, five years.
‘I looked at Botman, [John] Stones, [Manuel] Akanji. I couldn’t find anybody whose had an impact on their team like Saliba. I think [Luke] Shaw’s been outstanding, but let’s look at stats. Estupinan has been sensational to be fair to him.
‘Where I’m certain in my selection I will just pick them. I didn’t look at Dias’ stats. I love Ederson and Alisson but what Newcastle have done with less defensive resources… Pope has the best defensive record along with City.’
One surprise exception was perhaps United defender Martinez, though, despite missing out on both teams, he was praised by Carragher.
(4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Saliba, Dias, Estupinan; Odegaard, Rodri, De Bruyne; Saka, Haaland, Martinelli.
(4-3-3): Alisson; Trippier, Dias, Botman, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Kane, Haaland.
Neville chose Pervis Estupinan in defence and Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli
Carragher, meanwhile, named an identical midfield but with tweaks in his other positions
Rowing back on his scepticism and revealing him as his biggest surprise of the season, Carragher said: ‘Any centre half coming to the Premier League who is under six foot, you are thinking they are going to have a problem but he hasn’t.
‘Every player has weaknesses, but the best players hide their weaknesses. How can you overcome that? I wasn’t the biggest centre half and I was worried I was going to get bullied. I thought he was smaller than me.
‘But when you are talking about the role of Casemiro, I think there is a massive drop off when Lisandro Martinez is not in the Manchester United team. Defensively but also his ability on the ball in terms of playing out from the back.
‘He is a warrior, he is a leader, and when you think of that spine, he and Casemiro have made a big difference. So I apologise to Lisandro Martinez. Manchester United fans please stop tweeting me!’
Both Carragher and Neville continued to disagree across the other awards, with the exception of the best player. Unsurprisingly, Haaland was the unanimous pick.
For the best young player, Arsenal were handed a clean sweep. Carragher chose Saka, admitting he ‘loves’ him, while Neville chose the ‘outstanding’ Odegaard.
Eddie Howe clinched Carragher’s best manager nomination after steering Newcastle into the Champions League, while Neville named a victorious Pep Guardiola.
In the best signing category, meanwhile, Wolves’ Morgan Gibbs-White was Carragher’s pick, with United anchor Casemiro securing Neville’s nomination.
Full end-of-season awards winners
Carragher: Erling Haaland
Neville: Erling Haaland
Best young player
Carragher: Bukayo Saka
Neville: Martin Odegaard
Carragher: Eddie Howe
Neville: Pep Guardiola
Carragher: Morgan Gibbs-White
Carragher: Lisandro Martinez
Neville: Brighton 1-5 Everton
Carragher: Liverpool 7-0 Manchester United
Neville: World Cup final
Carragher named Eddie Howe as his best manager after he steered Newcastle into the top four
Manchester United anchor Casemiro was selected as Neville’s best signing of the season