Gary Neville has defended his decision to pick Arsenal winger Gabriel Martinelli over Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford in his Team of the Season.
The two players have both enjoyed superb seasons, with the Brazilian star netting 15 times and providing five assists in 36 games and playing a key role in the Gunners’ unsuccessful title bid.
Rashford has scored one more goal than Martinelli in three fewer Premier League games and enjoyed a rich vein of form after returning from the World Cup.
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Despite already having three Arsenal players – William Saliba, Bukayo Saka and Odegaard – in his Team of the Season, and no United stars, Neville felt Martinelli edged out Rashford.
But some Red Devils supporters were not best pleased with Neville’s selections – with Luke Shaw overlooked at left-back for Brighton’s Pervis Estupinan – but he has defended his decision.
‘Rashford and Martinelli have almost identical stats,’ tweeted Neville in response to a United fan who claimed his pick was based on not wanting to come across as biased towards his former club.
‘It just came down to the football and combinations I’ve seen from Martinelli and Arsenal’s season with his impact on it.’
Speaking on his line-up, he added: ‘When choosing a Team of the Season you get stuck on a few positions.
‘My challenges were goalkeeper, left-back, second centre-back to go with Ruben Dias and Rashford or Martinelli on the left. The rest for me were certainties in my mind.’
On why he chose to pick Dias over John Stones – who has often played in midfield this campaign – Neville added: ‘Stones has only played 11 games as a centre-back.’
Neville picked Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier as his goalkeeper and right back respectively, with a trio of players from Manchester City completing the rest of his XI.
Rodri and De Bruyne were both selected in midfield alongside Odegaard, while Arsenal’s widemen were separated by Erling Haaland taking up the centre-forward role.