This morning Paul Scholes announced his retirement after a twenty year association with Manchester United. I am nineteen years old and to some extent I feel like I have grown up with Paul Scholes, I have had the privilege of seeing him burst into the first team with youthful enthusiasm and enormous potential and watching him mature into one of the finest players ever to pull on the Manchester United shirt; indeed one of the finest ever to play the game.
This is a sad day for all associated with Manchester United as a born and bred Mancunian moves on to pastures new although I was very pleased to hear that Scholesy would be staying on as a Coach as his experience and his fantastic professionalism will be a fantastic asset to Sir Alex as he attempts to bring through the latest crop of talented youngsters. Of course though Paul’s days as a player are now at an end but boy what fantastic memories he has left us. He scores goals galore as the song goes, 150 to be precise and there have been some pearlers in there, Bradford in 1999, Aston Villa in 2006, Barcelona in 2008 and most recently Fulham in 2010.
Aside from his goals though his supreme ability as a footballer stood out a mile off, he made playing sixty yard passes look incredibly easy but his movement off the ball impressed me the most. Often I would take a few minutes watch Scholes and he was like an owl always aware of his surroundings, Rio Ferdinand calls him ‘satnav’ and many other players have said that Scholes not only knew where the ball was going to go after he had received it but where it would go after that too, he was to or three steps ahead of anybody else.
After the Champions League Final on Saturday you could see the respect that Scholes commands in Europe, arguably the best midfielder of this today Andreas Iniesta rushed to get Scholes’ shirt, his Barca team mate Xavi has previously called him the best around and France Legend Zinedine Zidane has expressed his regret of never getting to play with Paul. Scholes will go down as a United and England great without doubt however he has never been acknowledged through individual awards which is a shame because he so deserves them, however I would imagine this won’t bother Scholes in the slightest and his quiet lifestyle has probably led to this, Scholes is a quiet family man who loves to play football but does not endorse the celebrity lifestyle. Roy Keane once labelled him a ‘fantastic player and thoroughly unaffected human being’, also on a t shirt I own with Scholes’ image on there is a quote that reads “Get up, go to work, play the game, get showered, go home”. This sums Scholes up and if I was an up and coming youngster in the United ranks he would be the player I aspire to be like, quiet off the pitch but fantastic on it, wonderful.
Despite Scholes’ age (36) many would think United have replaced him years ago and he has been merely a bit part player, not so, yes Scholes has played less in recent years as his tiring limbs make it extremely hard to play Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday however when he plays he is nothing but crucial to United. When he came on as a substitute in the final at the weekend he did not look out of place and many believed his inclusion may have been a better option than having two up front, of course there are many ifs and buts but this boils down to the fact that at thirty-six Scholes was still capable of mixing it with the big boys. Also whilst the press wax lyrical about the mercurial midfield trio of Iniesta, Busquets and Xavi our very own Mancunian was as good if not better than these guys at his peak, a 26 year old Scholes would have walked into that Barca team, I believe one of the very few who could because that midfield is special don’t get me wrong but so was Scholes.
As you can tell by this article I am huge admirer of the ‘ginger Prince’ and when we begin next season without him we will realise just how good Scholes was, the old adage rings particularly true here that ‘you only appreciate what you had, when you no longer have it’. At this time we do not have a player like Scholes, someone who can change the game with a measured pass or in his younger days a perfectly timed late run into the box to score a trade mark header. The mere fact that Ferguson was keen for Scholes to play for one more year shows how much he valued the Englishman, not just because of his experience but because of his undying ability. The search must now begin to replace the mercurial Manc, Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder are the two names which have been bandied about the most, both brilliant players however not to quite as good as Scholes in his prime however in truth the only players that could claim to be as good as Scholes in his prime are the aforementioned Barca trio. Despite this I believe Modric or Sneijder would be a good replacement for Scholes and could would improve playing for Manchester United, furthermore with Scholes sticking around as coach he would be able to pass on his invaluable knowledge to the new incumbent of that number eighteen shirt.
In the meantime however before speculating over a replacement we should salute a United legend and watch the endless footage on Sky Sports News and various other website and really appreciate what a truly remarkable player we have had the privilege of watching for the best part of seventeen years. Without doubt this a sad day as another of the class of 92’ departs the Old Trafford stage leaving only Ryan Giggs as the only representative of that side and remarkably he is the oldest! However a time to praise Giggsy will come but this day should all be about Scholes.
Although yet unconfirmed I am led to believe that Paul Scholes will have his testimonial on the 5th August, if this is the case then I will be returning from Berlin to Liverpool at 6.45 that evening. I have a feeling that night could be a bit of a rush but for Scholesy we should all put the effort in to show our appreciation for a great, great player.