Our team, selected in a 4-4-2 formation, finds no space for Gary Neville or Frank Lampard but includes no fewer than seven British players

Eagle-eyed readers who have been following this series of all-time Premier League selections will shortly notice that the player we have declared the finest of the past 25 years is, curiously , not good enough for our combined best XI. What follows will not chime with everyones sentiment, or even, clearly, our own. Eric Cantona was a marvellous player, the various kinds of maverick genius human for the big occasion who gets singled out for individual awards, but two other forwards exist whose claims for a first-team place are in my opinion indisputable, which leaves no room for Cantona, Luis Surez, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Agero or any number of strikers who have thrilled and bewitched the Premier League.

Besides, something had to be done to stop Manchester Uniteds dominance of the past quarter-century turning this into a best-of-the-Sir-Alex-Ferguson-years selection. In all, 27 of the 30 people to have won the league four or more hours in the Premier League era played at Old Trafford under the Scot but only two of them plus two players who won three titles there are in our XI. There could certainly have been a couple more or a fabulous squad could be compiled containing none at all. There is certainly no dearth of candidates for selection.

There exists a more useful guide to a players impact than mere medal countings, in the form of the PFA team of the year. Since 1992 a total of 275 places in 25 teams have gone to 148 players, creating an A to Z of the domestic games great names, from Adams to Zabaleta. It hurls up some curious anomalies: Dennis Bergkamp, who won three league titles and expend more than a decade decorating the Arsenal team with his peerless grace, and Peter Schmeichel, who expended a cumulative nine Premier League seasons at Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City and was five times a champ, each stimulated the list only once. If this were the only measure of a players contribution to the Premier League theirs were no greater than those of Stig Inge Bjornebye, Pascal Chimbonda and Sylvinho, who between them won three League Cups.

Agero, who has scored 122 goals in 181 Premier League games and won two league titles over six years, has never constructed the list; neither has Gareth Barry, who has played more Premier League games than anyone on globe except Ryan Giggs( and is only four appearances away from catching him ). Among goalkeepers, Tim Flowers, Shay Given, Joe Hart and David James all get picked twice but since Schmeichels departure Manchester United goalkeepers have become the default selection, with David de Gea named four times, Edwin van der Sar three times and Fabien Barthez once. Elsewhere it is perhaps astounding that Rooney seemed no more than David Batty( three times) and that Dele Alli has already clocked up as many appearances as Paul Scholes( two ). Simply picking the players in each position who have appeared most often instantly conjures an excellent team( for the record, in 4-4-2 formation: De Gea; G Neville, Terry/ Vidic, Ferdinand, Cole; Ronaldo/ Beckham, Vieira[ selected by my colleague Amy Lawrence as the leagues best signing ], Gerrard, Giggs; Shearer, Henry) but unfairly rewards longevity of achievement over pure impact. It is hard, however, to argue that any player outside this 148 deserves serious consideration for this list.

Goalkeeper
Petr Cech Chelsea/ Arsenal

Cech has been inordinately dependable and with 149 clean sheets has more top-flight shutouts than any other Premier League goalkeeper. He maintained 25 clean sheets in the 2004 -0 5 season alone, when Chelsea had the most impressive defensive statistics of the past quarter-century. Gianluigi Buffon deems him the best goalkeeper in this era and Jos Mourinho declared in 2013: I always guessed, even when I was not at Chelsea, that we have the best goalkeeper in the world in Petr. In 2006 he fractured his skull in a collision with Readings Stephen Hunt, an injury that plainly also upset his confidence, but more than a decade later he remains the first-choice goalkeeper for one of the nations top clubs.

Right-back Rob Jones Liverpool

On 28 September 1991 the 19 -year-old Jones played at right-back for Crewe against Gillingham in the Fourth Division. The following weekend he started for Liverpool against Manchester United in a televised game at Old Trafford, marking Ryan Giggs. Four months ago he started his first match for England. His rise was rocket propelled and his performances stellar. Over the following seasons Giggs and David Ginola picked him out as the Premier Leagues finest defender; he was remarkably assured and outstanding in all aspects of the game( except shooting ). Virtually ever-present for Liverpool in the first four Premier League seasons, his body then started to let him down. By persons under the age of 28 he had retired.

Centre-back Tony Adams Arsenal

Tony
Tony Adams stretchings in an effort to halt Manchester Uniteds Teddy Sheringham in 1998. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/ Getty Images

Adams was not only an inspirational English centre-back, captain of club and country, but he became in many ways an incarnation of the Premier League itself and the changes it forced upon the domestic game. By the time the top flight rebranded, Adams was well established at the heart of Arsenals defence, with 19 England caps and four of his five international aims behind him. He also drank too much and trained too little but all that was soon to change. Adams recently said that Arsne Wenger is basically not a coach but the Frenchmans arrival surely coincided with a transformation of Adamss game and resulted in a aim against Everton in 1998 that was among the most joyful of the past 25 years.

Centre-back Jaap Stam Manchester United

Stam became the most expensive defender in history when Ferguson expended 10.75 m on him in 1998. He spent only three seasons in England but what years they were, bringing a hat-trick of league titles and one unprecedented Treble. He was tall, extraordinarily strong and yet also fast: simply put, opponents could not go past him, through him or over him. And then, abruptly, he was gone. There had been an achilles injury and a book that Ferguson considered a little too frank but most of all United needed the money. Stam was informed, in a petrol station forecourt, that he would be sold to Lazio. It was one of the mistakes I attained, Ferguson afterwards acknowledged. Hopefully I havent made too many but that was one. As the BBCs Mike Ingham set it: Without Jaap Stam, Sir Alex would still be Alex.

How
How the team lines up. Photo: The Guardian

Left-back Ashley Cole Arsenal/ Chelsea

It is curious, given Englands problems on the left flank between Stuart Pearces retirement and Coles emergence, that the vast majority of the left-backs in the PFA team of the year since 1992 have been English. Ryan Bertrand, Wayne Bridge, Luke Shaw and Alan Wright have had a run; Danny Rose, Graeme Le Saux and Leighton Baines have been picked twice. Cole surely deserves more than his four selections having famously nearly crashed[ his] auto when Arsenal offered him 55,000 a week rather than his desired 60,000, one can only imagine what must have happened when he was told his peers considered Gal Clichy the better left-back. Cole lost only 14.8% of his 385 Premier League games, was an outstanding international if his performance against Cristiano Ronaldo at Euro 2004 could be magically bottled it would be extremely potent and instantly intoxicating and was remarkably consistent.

Right midfield
Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd

Real Madrid have witnessed the majority of members of Ronaldos career but Manchester United surely find the best use of it, the portion where he transformed before our very eyes from a brilliantly talented, too lollipopping trickster into the worlds most fearsome and focused attacking force. In his first two seasons combined he scored only nine league objectives but there were 17 in his fourth when he was named player of the season by the PFA and the Football Writers Association and 31 in his fifth, where reference is won the golden boot as well as the two player of the year gongs. After another 18 in 2008 -0 9 he was on his way to Spain.

Central midfield Paul Scholes Manchester United

Paul
Paul Scholes heads a late win against Manchester City in April 2010. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

In 2011 Xavi memorably told the Guardian that Scholes was the best central midfielder Ive seen in the last 15, 20 years. Hes spectacular, he has it all: the last pass, objectives, hes strong, he doesnt lose the ball, vision. Zinedine Zidane held him undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation. Scholes was, like many of the greatest artists, underappreciated during his career his two appearances in the team of the year put him level with Stephen Carr, Bacary Sagna, Shay Given and William Gallas and though he won 66 England caps he completed merely 26 international games, three fewer than Barry. Perhaps this was because his career coincided with those of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, both of whom surely trumped him for attention, but to its implementation of pure ability Scholes likely outperforms them both, and most others.

Central midfield
Steven Gerrard Liverpool

Ferguson , not entirely unbiased when it comes to matters Liverpool, may have been one of the few who felt Gerrard was not a top, top player but the kudo of the former midfielders team-mates presents quite how esteemed he was. The two-times European Championship and one-time World Cup winner Fernando Torres proclaimed him by far the best player I have ever playing with; Danny Murphy called him the best midfielder Ive ever seen; lvaro Arbeloa thought him the most complete player Ive played with. Gerrard was only once named the PFAs player of the year but he was in the team of the year an unprecedented eight days. Nobody else has managed more than six appearances. Lampard, the Englishman with whom he is most often compared, managed it three times. For longevity of excellence, and for displaying it across all attacking and defensive duties, Gerrard stands alone.

Left midfield Ryan Giggs Manchester United

No player has played more Premier League games than Giggs, with 632 , nor has anyone created more Premier League goals than the Welshmans 167( the next best, Cesc Fbregas, is on a distant 107 ). Given the lack of outstanding specialist left wingers David Ginola is likely next on the listing before you get to Damien Duff, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing it is hard to imagine a plausible all-time Premier League XI without him. Only two players induced me exclaim when watching football, the Italian forward Alessandro Del Piero memorably said. One was Diego Maradona and the other Ryan Giggs.

Striker Alan Shearer Blackburn/ Newcastle

Alan
Alan Shearer celebrates after winning the Premier League with Blackburn in 1995. Photograph: Professional Sport/ Popperfoto/ Getty Images

The best goalscorer of the Premier League epoch. Shearer scored tap-ins, he scored headers, he scored free-kicks and he scored jaw-dropping 30 -yard calling volleys. He registered a record 11 Premier League hat-tricks, was the divisions top scorer for three successive seasons, between 1994 and 1997, and created perhaps the single most boring, instantly recognisable goalscoring festivity known to modern humanity. He has not made a habit of making headlines off the pitching he famously celebrated Blackburns 1995 title victory by going home to creosote the fence but was routinely the focus of attention on it.

Striker Thierry Henry Arsenal

Im preoccupied, Henry said, with the idea of building my mark on history. He surely induced his mark on the Premier League, scoring 175 league aims for Arsenal at the rate of one every 1.47 games and turning himself into an unstoppable mixture of thrilling pace and technical perfection. Lilian Thuram considered him the fastest man ever to lace up a football boot, a claim with which only recreational footballer Usain Bolt could seriously quibble. Zidane called him probably, technically, the most gifted footballer ever, which may, on reflection, be true. He was tall, strong, fast, intelligent and skilful; in any game of positive-footballing-attributes bingo, Henry is the full house.

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