Last Updated: 22/01/19 7:51pm
We asked Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and others from the class of 92 to pick their all-time Premier League XI – with one condition…
Neville and Giggs were joined by Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt to look back at their all-time best line-up, with no Manchester United player allowed to be included to, by the letter of the law, avoid “any potential bias”.
There were plenty of disagreements and even a change in formation to accommodate a new player midway through discussions – but when they were handed an extra challenge to include one United player in their line-up, they found themselves in agreement quickly enough.
But who got the holy grail of a place in the all-time best Premier League line-up?
Goalkeeper: David Seaman
Seaman was first choice at Arsenal during 11 Premier League seasons before leaving for Manchester City. He made 344 Premier League appearances in all, winning two league titles.
But the first pick of the line-up briefly proved a tricky one, until once Gary Neville put forward his choice and a consensus was quickly reached. “I would put forward Seaman or Thibaut Courtois,” said Gary Neville. “I love Petr Cech as well but Courtois is better – although I’d still say Seaman!”
Defence: Pablo Zabaleta, John Terry, Vincent Kompany, Ashley Cole
There were no qualms about John Terry’s inclusion after his 492 league appearances for Chelsea, including 13 seasons as captain, and likewise team-mate Ashley Cole, who lifted the Premier League trophy three times, once at Stamford Bridge and twice with old club Arsenal.
Ex-Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta provided more discussion. Ryan Giggs, a man with plenty of experience playing against right-backs, said: “It would’ve been Lee Dixon and Zabaleta for me.”
Phil Neville and Nicky Butt went for the now West Ham defender while Gary Neville and Giggs chose their old Arsenal adversary, leaving Paul Scholes to cast the deciding vote… “Picking a City player, what’s wrong with you?” said Giggs with a wry smile.
Another man who made his name at the Etihad, Vincent Kompany, proved an easier decision. “I like Tony Adams, I love him, but I love Vincent Kompany too,” said Gary Neville. Despite a late suggestion from Butt Adams or Sol Campbell should make the cut, with Giggs’ backing, the Belgian was added to the list.
Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Patrick Vieira
Steven Gerrard led the club to the Champions League in 2005 and second place in the Premier League in 2009, making 504 Premier League appearances and scoring 120 goals, and was a quick pick for the class of 92. “I would pick Gerrard,” said Gary Neville of his old adversary. “Gerrard all day long,” added Butt.
Likewise Patrick Vieira, who played such a big part in Arsenal’s rivalry with United during the late 1990s and early 2000s as the Gunners’ captain. “Vieira’s a certainty for me,” said Gary Neville, which was enough to get his name on the board.
But despite ranking fourth on the all-time Premier League top scorers list with 177 goals, Frank Lampard was not looking likely to make the cut before a change of formation – from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 – opened the door for the former Chelsea and Manchester City midfielder.
“The problem is if you’re having two wingers, you’re leaving Lampard out,” said Giggs. “You’ll have to play three, you’ll have to play three. You can’t leave him out with the goals he scored,” Butt added, and in he went.
Attack: Eden Hazard, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry
The first pick was a simple one – Alan Shearer getting the seal of approval of the whole room after being proposed by Gary Neville.
Another easy inclusion was Eden Hazard, who joined Chelsea from Lille in 2012, and within three years had been named the Premier League’s best player courtesy of two 14-goal seasons in succession.
“So Hazard’s a certain,” said Giggs.
Gareth Bale’s name was briefly mooted, as too was that of Dennis Bergkamp, but Thierry Henry was soon given the nod to finish off the line-up.
“It’d be Suarez or Henry for me,” said Gary Neville. “But it has to be Henry. How can it be anyone but him? He as out of this world for about five or six years.”
Manchester United replacement: Cristiano Ronaldo
With the option of removing one of their original choices and replacing them with a United player from the Premier League era, Cristiano Ronaldo took Eden Hazard’s place in the line-up.
But he wasn’t the class of 92’s first suggestion. “Me at right-back! I’m in, aren’t I,” said Gary Neville. “Put Gerrard right-back and Roy (Keane) in midfield.
“No – actually I think Schmeichel is the one. Put him in alongside David Seaman for now.”
But once Nicky Butt suggested the Portuguese five-time Ballon d’Or winner should make the line-up, there was little argument as he went in.
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