When Sir Alex Ferguson introduced his so-called “kids” to the football world in the 90’s, not many journalists, pundits and fans would have bet or believed legends would be born from that Manchester United team. Paul Scholes was one of those kids and he would not only become a legend, he’d become the midfield wizard of Old Trafford.
Scholes is one of the greatest players to have ever played for Manchester United and England, and is undoubtedly a huge contributor to world football having entertained fans for years. He is probably the only English player who could have ousted Xavi or Iniesta from the Barcelona midfield. In fact, when Scholes retired the first time around, Xavi had this to say about him. “For me, and I really mean this, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. He’s spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly. Players love him.”
Truer words were never spoken. Have you ever seen a more sophisticated passer of the ball? Have you ever seen a player with a long-range shot like Scholesy? His highlight reel is sublime. Despite the football talent, critics will point out his tough tackling and that at times he was a very dirty player. Scholes received 90 yellow cards and 4 red cards making him the 3rd most booked player in Premier League history. But the beauty certainly outweighed the beast in this football fairy tale.
Scholes played for Manchester United his entire career. He had 466 appearances and 102 goals from 1993-2011. He returned from retirement for the 2012-13 season and made a further 31 appearances and scored 5 goals. He leaves the game with 66 England caps, scoring 14 times for his country. He retired from international football way too soon and Fabio Capello failed in his attempt to bring him back for the 2010 World Cup. And how much did England need him in that tournament? But Scholes didn’t need England and in the end, he wanted to give what he had left to his one of his true loves, Manchester United.
Like Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, Scholes has winners medals bursting from his trophy cabinet. 11 Premier League titles, 3 F.A. Cups, 2 Champions League, 2 League Cups, 5 Community Shields, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 World Club Championship. He has won it all and was also inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
His biggest disappointment was probably missing out on the memorable 1999 Champions League Final against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou. Because he didn’t play in that game due to suspension, he doesn’t consider the medal as something he earned. “Roy Keane and I both got medals but they didn’t mean anything to either of us because we hadn’t been a part of it. You have to play in the final to warrant a medal, that’s my opinion. It’s the biggest game of the whole competition and you have to be on the pitch or at least on the bench to earn a medal.” That’s a very different opinion and approach to John Terry, who was banned from the 2012 Champions League Final yet had no problem lifting the trophy after Chelsea’s victory. Paul Scholes certainly isn’t cut from the same cloth as John Terry. A blue collar lad who never felt entitled to anything and wanted to earn everything that came his way, Scholes was never a selfish player.
A lifelong fan of Oldham Athletic, Paul Scholes is the perfect role model for any kid who wants to play professional football. He always behaved like a gentlemen off the pitch and enjoyed a career that was scandal free. A very shy man, Scholes always put family and football first. Granted he wasn’t a marketer or sponsors dream like his colleagues Ryan Giggs or David Beckham, but none of that even mattered to someone like Scholes. He just wanted to play football.
Loyal. Professional. Clinical. Aggressive. Beautiful. Spellbinding. Class. Scholes will be missed not only by Red Devil fans but also by fans of the game. This season it looks like he’ll be retiring for good. And as effective as Michael Carrick has been for United in their acquisition of another title, the departure of Scholes will still leave a void in that midfield and at the club. You rarely see English players with his technical skills and ability. They don’t come along very often.
It’s certainly the end of an era at one of the world’s greatest clubs. It’s been fun watching this fiery red head play. He made his debut as one of those so-called kids, but he left the club a man with a great influence on many other kids coming through at Manchester United. Paul Scholes, you are a legend…