The 2000s was the real golden era of the Premier League, when English football went global and established itself as the most popular domestic league in the world.
It was a combination of pulsating action and elite quality, with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all among the best club sides in Europe at one time or another.
This is 90min’s Premier League team of the 2000s…
Petr Cech (GK)
Even after suffering a life threatening fractured skull in 2007, Petr Cech was a world class goalkeeper. Before it happened, he was truly unbelievable.
Chelsea picked up the Czech stopper from French side Rennes in the summer of 2004, having failed to secure his arrival the previous January. The deal was wrapped up prior to Euro 2004, a tournament at which he shone.
Cech went more than 1,000 minutes without conceding a goal in his debut Premier League season and won two league titles and four domestic cups in his first four years alone.
Gary Neville (RB)
Gary Neville was never gifted with natural ability, yet his determination, grit, awareness and footballing intelligence ensured he developed into one of English football’s best ever defenders.
Neville had been a permanent fixture in the Manchester United line up in the mid to late 1990s and remained an automatic selection into the 2000s, collecting five more Premier League titles to add to his existing three.
His role also evolved as he got older, becoming United captain in 2005.
Rio Ferdinand (CB)
Rio Ferdinand proved to be worth every penny of the £30m British record transfer fee Manchester United paid for him in the summer of 2002, having outgrown Leeds and enjoyed a breakout international display at that summer’s World Cup.
Ferdinand immediately improved United and collected a Premier League title in his first year. By the time he returned to form after an eight-month ban for a missed drugs test he was genuinely among the best defenders in the world.
His partnership with Nemanja Vidic is the stuff of legend and was the backbone of his club’s dominance at home and abroad in the late 2000s.
John Terry (CB)
It would have been easy for Chelsea to dispense with John Terry in the early days of the Roman Abramovich era. Instead, he was made club captain at the age of 23 and rarely missed a game as Chelsea won Premier League titles in 2004/05, 2005/06 and 2009/10.
Terry was included in the PFA Team of the Year three times in the 2000s and won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award for 2004/05, one of only three defenders in the Premier League era.
He was also a major goal threat at set pieces and scored 68 times in his career as a whole.
Ashley Cole (LB)
The drama and controversy that surrounded Ashley Cole’s transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006 was largely because he was arguably the best left-back in the world at the time. If he wasn’t, Chelsea wouldn’t have cared so much, nor would Arsenal have been as upset as they were.
Bursting onto the scene in 2000/01, Cole was part of the ‘Invincibles’ generation at Arsenal, with whom he collected two Premier League titles and three FA Cups.
At Chelsea, he added four more FA Cup triumphs in total – a competition record, one of which was half of a domestic league and cup double.
Cristiano Ronaldo (RM)
Cristiano Ronaldo went from infuriatingly inconsistent teenager to world class superstar in the space of a few years at Manchester United, in 2008 becoming the first Man Utd to win the Ballon d’Or since George Best in 1968.
Ronaldo made a tremendous breakthrough in 2006, both physically maturing and vastly improving his decision making on the pitch.
After that transformation, United won three Premier League titles on the spin, with the Portuguese icon top scorer each time, while the club also conquered Europe in the Champions League.
Steven Gerrard (CM)
For years, Steven Gerrard drove Liverpool forward. Sometimes alone. He more than any other player is responsible for the club’s success and ability to compete for trophies throughout the 2000s.
Gerrard, who was handed the Liverpool captaincy at 23, never played fewer than 43 games in all competitions throughout the decade and often played more than 50. He nearly always reached double figures in front of goal in total and even exceeded 20 a few times.
He was a seven-time inclusion in PFA Team of the Year in the 2000s alone.
Frank Lampard (CM)
Chelsea made a big statement when they paid £11m for Frank Lampard in the summer of 2001. The midfielder, like any other player at Stamford Bridge, could have felt threatened by the big spending that came after 2003 but he appeared to thrive under the pressure instead.
For 10 consecutive seasons that extended beyond just the 2000s, Lampard scored at least 10 Premier League goals from midfield, highlighting his tremendous consistency.
He was FWA Footballer of the Year in 2005 and placed second in the Ballon d’Or that year.
Ryan Giggs (LM)
Modern claims that Ryan Giggs was overrated are bonkers. Passengers very famously didn’t last long in any Sir Alex Ferguson team and Giggs played at least 200 more games for Manchester United than anyone else in the club’s storied history.
An electric winger in the 1990s, the Welsh star learned to adapt his game as both he and the sport changed over the years.
Giggs, who won six Premier League titles in the 2000s alone, was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2008/09, an accolade that recognised his achievements over a much longer period.
Wayne Rooney (FW)
Wayne Rooney was a superstar from the age of 16 and ultimately won every major trophy it was possible to win at club level before moving on from Manchester United in 2017.
Together with Ronaldo, Rooney was a major reason why the Old Trafford club were such a resurgent force in both the Premier League and Champions League from the mid-2000s onwards.
He could be both a great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals. Only one other player has scored more Premier League goals, while he holds all-time records for both United and England.
Thierry Henry (FW)
Unplayable at his very best, Thierry Henry is the only player in Premier League history to have won four Golden Boot awards. What’s more, he won all four of them outright and three back-to-back.
The Frenchman scored some truly iconic goals during his time as Arsenal’s talisman, including a spectacular self-assisted volley against Manchester United and phenomenal solo efforts against Tottenham, Liverpool and Leeds.
Henry was named in six consecutive PFA Teams of the Year and was the first ever to retain the PFA Players’ Player of the Year prize – only Cristiano Ronaldo has matched him.