The Premier League era of English football celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend and, to mark the occasion, BT Sport asked fans to vote for their greatest all-time Premier League starting XI. Pundits Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, and Rachel Brown-Finnis also joined in the shenanigans and chose their teams.
The fans' team ultimately ended up with three Manchester United players, three Liverpool, two Arsenal, and one each from Manchester City, Chelsea, and Newcastle. One notable omission was Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.
Your all-time Premier League XI 🥵
Who is the biggest omission from this squad?!
You can select your own XI at https://t.co/V19Lv4wypQ and join the conversation using #PLImmortals 👊#PL30 pic.twitter.com/zEjvKXS0fL
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 12, 2022
Rio Ferdinand selected Rooney for his all-time Premier League XI - and came out firing in his former teammate's corner.
Rio Ferdinand's all-time Premier League XI
After analysing the fans' selections, Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole made their own selections on BT Sport's buildup to Aston Villa v Everton on Saturday afternoon.
Ferdinand chose himself at the heart of defence, alongside four former Manchester United teammates and another club legend, Peter Schmeichel.
Rio Ferdinand's Premier League XI: Peter Schmeichel; Kyle Walker, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Cole; Patrick Vieira, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard; Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo
Explaining his picks, Ferdinand came to the defence of Wayne Rooney, Manchester United's all-time leading goalscorer, and stands in second place in the all-time tally of Premier League goals.
Over 200,000 fans selected this XI as the greatest Premier League team of all time! 🤩
So we gave @rioferdy5, @rach_brown1 and Joe Cole a chance to pick their all-time team...
Which one do you prefer? 🤔#PL30 pic.twitter.com/HV0suhT5YG
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 13, 2022
Rooney did not gain enough votes to make the fans' XI, and Ferdinand explained why he was disappointed in this:
What I will say - an in form Rooney is one of the best players we've ever seen, especially an English player. He was a ridiculous football player. It's going to be about five, maybe ten years before people start going 'actually, woah' and giving him the respect he deserves.
I don't think he gets the kind of adulation he deserves.
That front three (Henry, Rooney, Ronaldo), I just can't look beyond that.
Ferdinand chose Rooney and fellow United legend Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Premier League's greatest goalscorer Alan Shearer. He justified his pick, saying:
That's another consideration I had to take but, listen, I went with somebody I played with a lot of times and I've seen him unnerve every type of of defender - the best, the biggest, the fastest, the ugliest. Rooney did that every single week we went out there.
Ferdinand also said that he had considered dropping Steven Gerrard to facilitate bringing in his rival English midfielder Frank Lampard. The two Premier League legends faced off as managers for the first time in Saturday's early kick off.
Fellow pundits Joe Cole and Rachel Brown-Finnis both also picked their Premier League XIs on the pre-match buildup, and neither side had room for Wayne Rooney.
Cole chose not to select any player he had played with at club or national level. His team included two Irishmen in Manchester United's Denis Irwin and Roy Keane, neither of whom were selected for the fans' XI. Brown-Finnis chose Rio Ferdinand at centre back.
Joe Cole's Premier League XI: David Seaman; Cesar Azpilicueta, Tony Adams, Virgil Van Dijk, Denis Irwin; Roy Keane, Kevin De Bruyne, Patrick Vieira; Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry
Rachel Brown-Finnis' Premier League XI: Peter Schmeichel; Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Virgil Van Dijk, Ashley Cole; Claude Makelele, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes; Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry
Rio Ferdinand's impassioned case for his former teammate reopens the debate about Wayne Rooney's place in Premier League history.
208 goals in 491 games over 16 years in the league, and five league titles to boot. Where does Wayne Rooney sit among the Premier League's greatest ever?