Well, well, that was some Premier League season, wasn’t it? We reflect and name the best Premier League team of all time.
The 2017/8 season brought up plenty of conversation points, most significantly the best Premier League team ever. In December Four Four Two published an article from tactics blogger Michael Cox which ranked Chelsea’s title winning team of last season as the fourth best ever Premier League winning side. (The list has conveniently been republished in the last few days and can be seen here)
The top three? Chelsea’s 2005 vintage, followed by Arsenal’s 2004 team and topped by Manchester City’s team this season.
If it seems like there’s an anomaly there don’t worry, because the Premier League’s most successful team does make the list in fifth with their 2009 team. Chelsea’s 2006 team are sixth, while United’s 1994 side is in 7th. The top ten are rounded out by Leicester in 8th, who were deemed better than United’s 2000 side and the 2008 side, which is tenth despite being the only side on the list to win the European Cup.
Of course Manchester City would be top, as the flavour of the month it is only right and important that such lists are compiled so that people can put them at the top. And we think it’s clear for all to see that Chelsea’s title winning team of last year is better than any United team in history. Sarcasm out of the way, we thought we would take the opportunity to compile the best team in Premier League history, from a completely objective standpoint, using clinical standards of qualification.
The formation shall be fluid, either 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 depending on which players best fulfil the initial criteria, which is to be the player in their position with most Premier League winning medals. In the event that there is a striker or midfielder with one medal more, then that will define the system. In the event that those players are tied for medals, then other criteria will be used, specific to those players.
With five medals, Peter Schmeichel just nudges Edwin van der Sar and Petr Cech out of top spot. Schmeichel is widely thought of as the best goalkeeper of all time and takes his place between the sticks.
With eight medals to his name, nobody can contest Gary Neville’s right to be selected at right back in this team. Likewise, Denis Irwin’s seven make him an automatic choice at left back. Spare a thought for Patrice Evra whose five medals would leave him watching from the sidelines, and Phil Neville who had one more than Evra and still misses out.
Centre half is harsher territory and some great names miss out. With his six medals, Rio Ferdinand is the automatic choice, but for the first time there is a selection issue in this area.
Gary Pallister won four, and Jaap Stam only featured in three, just as many as Vincent Kompany, so do not make the list.
Three players won five titles; Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown and John Terry. Surprisingly, Vidic is the automatic omission from this list with a smaller trophy cabinet than Brown or Terry. Terry has the edge on Brown in overall trophies won but this is a Premier League XI. While both have five winners medals, Brown can count himself hugely unfortunate for injuries to have ruled him out of earning medals in 2000, 2009 and 2011. However, in those latter two, Wes Brown did at least make eight and seven appearances respectively, meaning he played a part in seven seasons where United won a Premier League medal. It’s therefore enough to edge him into the best team the league has ever seen.
It’s worth noting that Terry was awarded a medal despite only making nine appearances in 16/17, so it further justifies Brown’s selection.
There is some serious talent in the midfield and a look across the names is enough to give you a tingle of excitement. There is simply no contest in terms of the most successful players in this area. David Beckham’s six, Roy Keane’s seven, Paul Scholes’ eleven and Ryan Giggs’ stunning thirteen make each of them automatic choices in United’s midfield.
Spare a thought for Nicky Butt, who with six has to miss out as he didn’t really play on the right very often. Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher with five and Anderson with four can count themselves also unfortunate.
Outside of United, Frank Lampard, Patrick Vieira, Yaya Toure and David Silva each won three titles as the closest names to this squad.
Possibly the mostly hotly competed area and one which undoubtedly springs the greatest surprises. There have been some outstanding players in this area but the one with the most medals is none other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian’s six title medals make him the first choice in this team.
His partner is one of three players, all of whom won five titles (Didier Drogba, with four, was the closest outside of Old Trafford). Those players are Eric Cantona, Andy Cole and Wayne Rooney. Each have their merits. Wayne Rooney is the club’s record goalscorer and one of a handful of players to have won every trophy available (in fact, with his Europa League substitute appearance in last year’s final, he can claim to have the greatest variety). Andy Cole, meanwhile, starred in the treble winning team, which was dominant for three years.
However, in the spirit of admiring artistry and things more meaningful than records, we have to plump for Eric Cantona, whose influence over the entire football club was arguably more impressive and far reaching than either of the other two.
The bench is pretty impressive – Vidic, Terry, Phil Neville, Butt, Carrick, Rooney and Cole.
So there you have it, an all-time Premier League XI that simply nobody could argue against. These players won the league the most times and are therefore the most successful in the League’s history.
Perhaps a more interesting argument is which season you would take each of those players from at their peak.
Another counter argument is to look at which Premier League side are represented most prominently and it’s another surprise; it’s the 96/97 side, with 9 of the 11 players — all except Brown and Ferdinand — playing. It’s funny, because it’s not the side we would automatically think of when choosing United’s best ever Premier League team, but, the numbers do speak for themselves.
***Update to post***
Our initial figures were incorrect as pointed out by our follower on Twitter Rob McNamara :
I wholeheartedly agree with this. One little thing. Eric Cantona won four Prem medals (92/93, 93/94, 95/96 and 96/97) and one First Division medal (with Leeds 91/92)- not five Prem medals as stated in the graphic, if the article is only focusing on Prem years.
— Rob McNamara (@whatrobdidnext) May 17, 2018
That means one of Rooney or Cole gets in. On goals and trophies, it has to be Rooney – but I guess we can give Eric a pass, right…?