Friday, June 5, 2009

Paul Scholes

To say Paul Scholes is not your average footballer would be something of an understatement.

After all, this is a man who struggles with asthma, is short, incredibly shy, has no real pace, can’t tackle, shuns the spotlight and is a dedicated family man.

However, he is also one of the most gifted footballers ever to play the game and, although he refuses most interview requests, that is largely because he does all his talking on the pitch.

Blessed with a creative football brain, an eye for goal, quick feet and a sublime range of passing, Scholes has won almost everything the game has to offer in a glittering career that has ensured that he will always be treasured by players and fans alike at Manchester United.

Often described as 'a player’s player', Scholes is admired by many of the greats of the game and even Sir Bobby Charlton has been moved to describe him as his favourite ever United player - high praise indeed.Always a reluctant superstar, the midfielder has been with United since he was 14 and, alongside the likes of Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Nicky Butt, graduated swiftly through the ranks and into the first team.

The ‘Ginger Prince’ never had any trouble making his presence felt in the senior side, scoring twice on his debut against Port Vale in the League Cup in 1994-95, and also netting on his first league appearance against Ipswich Town.

Success was inevitably quick to follow and Scholes picked up his first silverware in 1996, claiming a Premier League and FA Cup double.

Winning was to prove a familiar feeling for the midfield maestro, who has since added another eight Premier League titles, two FA Cups and two Champions League wins to his collection.

Not that he would ever be the type to boast about his achievements. Indeed, in a rare interview Scholes confessed that he doesn’t keep his medals on view and instead has them locked away somewhere safe. Notoriously private as he is, the Red Devil has also revealed that, despite winning a Champions League medal in 1999, it is the one prize he doesn’t feel he deserves as he famously missed the last-gasp win over Bayern Munich through suspension.

Yet the midfielder managed to make amends for that disappointment in 2008 and did so in style in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, with a goal that provided a real highlight of his career. Having picked up a goalless draw in the first leg at the Camp Nou, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side brought the Catalans back to Old Trafford, where they were defeated courtesy of a stunning strike by Scholes. That goal sent United back to the final, in which they overcame Chelsea on penalties and Scholes finally received the Champions League winners medal that he felt he had truly earned.

Whilst his club career has featured unrivalled success, he has fared slightly worse on the international scene and it is perhaps fair to say he never really fulfilled his potential in an England shirt. Yet he began his career for the Three Lions brightly enough, scoring in World Cup 1998 before hitting a hat-trick against Poland in a Euro 2000 qualifier. However, he then went on to suffer the ignominy of becoming the first England player to be sent-off at Wembley, followed by a goal drought that lasted three years. Despite finally ending that poor run with a strike against Croatia in Euro 2004, it wasn’t long before Scholes hung up his international boots, aged only 29. The quiet man cited family reasons and the hope of prolonging his club career as his prime motivation and, although many have subsequently tried to convince him to change his mind, none have yet succeeded. Yet England’s loss is undoubtedly United’s gain and Scholes continues to play an integral part at Old Trafford, more than 15 years after making his debut. He has now racked up over 600 appearances for United, scoring 142 times (and counting). Despite competition from the likes of Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Fletcher, Scholes remains a vital member of the squad and, although his time at the club is undoubtedly coming to an end, there is life in the old man yet.


Premier League: (1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09) FA Cup: (1996, 1999, 2004)
Champions League: (1999, 2008)
League Cup: (2006, 2009)
Club World Cup: (2009)

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