As retirements go, Paul Scholes rather allowed his to slip under the radar, hidden behind the attention that Sir Alex Ferguson's own retirement received.
That sums up Paul Scholes the man really. Un-flashy, uncomplicated and reliable to the end. As a player however Scholes was something unique, special, and a man who stood out from the crowd.
Scholes first retired in 2011, lasting just six months before deciding that he could still offer something to Manchester United. His return was the perfect exemplification of his enduring class and ability. At 37 years of age, having not played for over six months, Scholes returned with exceptional performances, hardly misplacing a pass and being instrumental in United’s impressive post Christmas form. That showed simply how brilliant a player Scholes is and always has been for Manchester United.
As a member of “Fergie’s Fledglings”, Scholes has spent 19 years at Old Trafford and etched his name into the history of the club. He is one of the most decorated players in English football history having won 11 Premier League Titles, three FA Cups, Two League Cups, two Champions Leagues and a Club World Cup. Few can ever rival such statistics and Scholes has done all of it in a calm, understated manner.
He has always stayed away from the limelight, purely focussing on his football and dedicating himself to his career and family. His talents singled him out though. Having started his career as a striker, Scholes moved to central midfield in 1997 and soon became one of the best in the world in that position.
As an attacking midfielder Scholes had an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, ghosting into the box to score numerous goals from midfield. He was integral in The Treble winning campaign of 1998-99, scoring 11 goals in the season including one in the FA Cup Final. Famously Scholes was suspended for the Champions League Final.
From there Scholes’ career went from strength to strength until 2005 where he began to suffer from blurred vision. This led to prolonged absences from the side and hampered both Scholes and United’s progress. As his career went on, Scholes has changed his role and changed his game.
From being an attacking box to box midfielder, Scholes became a playmaker, sitting deep and dictating play with raking passes. This was a mark of his ability and quality and he was essential to United once more, helping them to numerous more titles and another Champions League in 2007-08; with Scholes playing in the final this time. Throughout his career, Scholes was invaluable to his club, setting a standard for all other players to reach, both on and off the field and securing his place in the hearts of supporters.
Scholes should have had a more distinguished International career. He has been the player England could have done with on so many occasions, even now.
In 2004 Scholes retired from England duty after years of being messed around by England managers. Under Sven Goren Eriksson he was a victim of the Gerrard-Lampard conundrum and was played out of position on the left wing. England wasted Paul Scholes and have suffered as a result.
Scholes has achieved plaudits from all over the world. Socrates said he had the talent to play for Brazil. Zinedine Zidane called Scholes the “complete footballer”. Xavi labelled Scholes as his role model and Pep Guardiola believed Scholes is the best midfielder of his generation. These kind of comments are the least that Scholes deserves.
He is without question the best midfielder ever to play in the Premier League; and one of the best players in any position to ever grace English Football. Many will nominate other players such as Patrick Vieira or Steven Gerrard. The fact is that Gerrard doesn’t have Scholes’ ability and has achieved nothing in the game compared to Scholes.
Also, Scholes can also claim to be a role model off the field, something that so many other great players, Gerrard included can never claim. Paul Scholes is quite simply a genius, a legend, a footballing great and a top bloke. He is a master of shooting, passing and controlling a game.
The one thing he never mastered was tackling. When history looks back on Paul Scholes it will look back fondly and reflect on the man who is without doubt the greatest midfielder of his generation.
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