Gary Neville picks his best XI from first half of Premier League season and his top three goals
Last Updated: January 3, 2013 2:04pm
The Premier League campaign has reached its halfway point.
Man United sit top of the table and Everton and West Brom are perched handily in the top seven, but it has been a semester of struggle for QPR and Reading.
Gary Neville has had his finger on the pulse since the action kicked off in August and on the New Year's Eve edition of Monday Night Football, he selected his team of the season so far and his top three goals...
Read below to see Gary's star-studded XI and then let us know whether you agree with him by filling in the feedback form at the base of the page...
Goalkeeper - Asmir Begovic (Stoke)
Begovic is a presence, he can catch the ball and kick it forward with the minimum of fuss and he makes some magnificent saves as well. He has been a large part of Stoke's excellent defensive record and is surely being looked at by other clubs.
Right-back - Pablo Zabaleta (Man City)
Zabaleta has been the best right-back in the Premier League this season but he is more than that; he is a leader in the City team, he puts impetus into their play and that puts him ahead of Glen Johnson (Liverpool) and Rafael (Man United) who are having good seasons.
Centre-back - Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Jagielka is dependable; he reads the game well, puts himself in the right positions and doesn't give away too many fouls. He is solid in the air, scores a goal here and there and is a good character.
Centre-back - Rob Huth (Stoke)
I think Huth and Stoke teammate Ryan Shawcross have been outstanding but the German has just edged into my team because he has been a man mountain. He doesn't get too tight to defenders and when he sees the ball he gets there quickly and doesn't leave space in behind and get done by quicker players, a trait Steve Bruce had and Nemanja Vidic has.
Left-back - Leighton Baines (Everton)
Left-back is easy because Baines has been outstanding and turned into a top-class full-back. I played against him when he was at Wigan a good few years ago and you knew he was good going forward but you didn't know if he had the aggression or mentality to know how to defend in David Moyes' Everton team - but he does.
Right-midfield - Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Mata is delivering and is the best player of his type in the Premier League this season, better than David Silva, Samir Nasri, Eden Hazard etc. He is really clever and good on the ball and has now added goals to his game. He is affecting matches and I think he has enjoyed the challenge of having Oscar and Hazard alongside him at Chelsea.
Centre-midfield - Michael Carrick (Man United)
Carrick has been Man United's best midfield player and someone every player would want in their team. His passing is fantastic, he holds the ball, he is intelligent, has a good presence and has really connected with Robin van Persie; he sees the Dutchman's runs better than anybody. He is a top central midfield player and one of the first names on the United team sheet.
Centre-midfield - Marouane Fellaini (Everton)
Felliani has been outstanding and his performance against Man United on the opening day was the individual display of the season so far. I am playing him in central midfield because I want to get two forwards in, but he could be a holding midfield player, an off-the-front player, a centre-forward or a conventional midfield player. Don't be fooled by the fact long ball are lumped up to him; he can play anywhere and will be courted by all the top clubs.
Left-midfield - Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
Bale is the outstanding left-winger; I want him to get into that world-class level and become one of the best players in the world and he is getting there. That in-game intelligence - the understanding of when to be a left-sided midfield player; when to be a left-winger; when to see danger, get back and be a left wing-back; when to be a centre-forward and run through - is the next level that you want to see him get to, but he is a magnificent player as it is.
Centre-forward - Robin van Persie (Man United)
United are not a one-man team but van Persie has been brilliant. The challenge for him was to maintain the form of last season, when he was magnificent at Arsenal, and he has. I don't think he is the best off the ball at sprinting to the play; he works but it is not his favourite part of the game so United are carrying someone in the respect - but he affects the play in the big moments in the big matches, like when United beat Chelsea 3-2 at Stamford Bridge, in which he affected EVERY moment of that match. People were expecting him to fail under the big pressure of playing for United and in a different style, but he has settled brilliantly.
Centre-forward - Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
I went with Suarez over Swansea's Michu because while their performance levels have been equal, Suarez is a better player. He has had to deal with the racism case and accusations of diving but he has come through that and has a real tenacity. He has carried Liverpool and been their best player by a mile; he scores all different types of goals and is always involved in games. I think van Persie brings his team-mates into play better but that's because he has played in better teams. Suarez gets the blinkers on and thinks he has to do it all himself, but if Liverpool up their quality he might then connect with other players more.
Gary's top three goals
Aston Villa's great team goal against Liverpool is my number three; the passing was one or two touch and crisp and Christian Benteke's back-heel was worthy of a goal and Andreas Weimann finished it brilliantly. I also wanted a blast and there were a number of candidates, but Cameron Jerome's goal against Southampton was an absolute rocket so that was my number two.
My winner, though, is the Luis Suarez goal against Newcastle; Jose Enrique's long pass looked like was going to go out for a goal kick or into Tim Krul's arms and the last thing you would expect was for Suarez cushion it down by using his shoulder and score. It was outstanding.
Hit the video at the top of the screen to watch Gary answer viewers' questions on Sir Alex Ferguson, Gareth Bale's reputation as a diver and more...