English Premier League has witnessed eras in football which were dominated either by player or manager’s personalities. Currently, Pep Guardiola’s multi-dimensional Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s unrelenting Liverpool have a unprecedented dominance. Looking back 15 years ago one would remember the supremacy of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and Arsene Wenger’s Invicibles. However, the original era had started in 1992 with a majestic squad which was Manchester United’s class of 1992. And one of the monumental pillars of that team was Paul Scholes: An undoubted Manchester United legend, a genius with magic in his feet.
Fans and pundits regard him as the best midfielder of his generation. Paul Scholes was the charm of Sir Alex Ferguson’s midfield. He wore the Red shirt 718 times in his career and scored 155 goals. Winning 25 trophies in 19 years that included 11 League titles and 2 Champions League medals is truly a laudable accomplishment.
While footballers of today have become greedy and often change clubs in order to get a higher monetary package, players like Scholes who stick to the club of their dreams rather than running behind lucrative contracts have become a rare species. Let’s relive Scholes grandiose journey from a boy born in the wrong half on Manchester to the United star.
Where it all began…
The Salford born Englishman moved to Langley which is a few miles away from Manchester City but Scholes’ heart was always fond of United. At the age of 14, he started to train at the theatre of dreams. No one at this point could have predicted Scholes’ trajectory of becoming one of the greatest players to grace the game.
His first professional contract arrived in 1993 but the then 19 year old didn’t make the breakthrough in the senior squad until the 1994-95 season. Paul Scholes wore the senior Manchester United jersey for the first time in the Football League cup against Port Vale. His debut was nothing less than a dream as he scored the brace in the 2-1 win. However, the Englishman’s Premier League debut was bittersweet, though he’ll always relish scoring on his debut, losing his first game isn’t a rejoicing memory.
Bigger responsibilities and things were waiting for Scholes. While continuing his development into a top player, a moment of opportunity arrived. In 1995-96, Mark Hughes swapped the United red for Chelsea blue and there was a chance for Scholes to play more regularly under Fergie. On a matchday against Crystal Palace, United striker Eric Cantona decided to try his feet at karate, and launched a horrendous Kung Fu kick at a Crystal Palace fan. The consequence of hitting a Crystal Palace fan was a football ban for 8 months.
Eric Cantona’s Kung Fu antics coupled with Hughes’ departure opened a door of possibilities to Scholes. The player now started featuring more regularly playing as a strike partner to Andy Cole for a few months. The season was significant in numerous ways, firstly, Scholes ended up scoring 14 goals in the entire campaign. Secondly, the player won the Premier League for the first time in 1996 when United won the league with 82 points. To double the joy of every Red Devils supporter, the club were successful in winning the domestic double that season.
Now, Scholes was in top gear, he could bend the matches in the team’s favour in minutes of extraordinaire play. Scholes was now the magnet of United’s team that attracted trophies to the Old Trafford. The next season, the roaring Manchester United were successful in defending the domestic double.
Destiny had something else planned for Scholes. Had Roy Keane not been ruled out for several months due to an agonizing knee injury in 1997, we would have never known Paul Scholes as a midfield dynamo. Sir Alex made a tactical tweak and switched Scholes to central midfield.
Paul and midfield looked like a match made in heaven. He settled into the role with alarming ease and started to dictate games without many hardships. That particular year didn’t yield any silverware for the Red Devils but the team continued to impress overall and Scholes was at the heart of it.
The 1998-99 season was historical in many aspects. Paul Scholes orchestrated United’s midfield and the Red Devils captured an incredible European Treble. Scholes was on the score sheet 11 times that term and most importantly scored a goal in the FA Cup final. Scholes was instrumental throughout the game, however, his slick passing and midfield genius would be missed in the all important UEFA Champions League Final. Picking up a yellow card in the second leg of the semi final ruled our magician out of the final. The Red Devils pulled on a late late comeback in the dying stages of the game to win 2-1, thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 93rd minute strike.
Scholes had reached the zenith with the world bowing to his greatness. He had reached dizzying heights of footballing brilliance that no player would have ever dreamt of, but you pay a price for your success. In 2005-06 season, Scholes was diagnosed with blurred vision, ruling him out for the season. His recovery was quicker than expected and he did make a comeback in the final game of the league campaign against Charlton Athletic.
The following seasons were business as usual for Scholes as he continued to rack up goals from midfield and was decisive for Sir Alex’s team as the team kept on adding silverware to his trophy cabinet. The 2007-08 season was the moment of redemption for Scholes. He missed the famous Champions League final in Barcelona in 1999 and this time had the chance to take the Red Devils to the final again in 2008. A stunning 25 yard goal from Scholes against Barcelona took United to the final. This time he started the final but was taken off in the 87th minute. The Red half of Manchester erupted in joy as United beat Chelsea 6-5 on penalties and Scholes now had his second Champions League medal to show off.
The next few seasons did witness a Scholes who was failing to cope with his age, but his on field presence and vision was enough to drive the team forward. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame of English football in 2008 for his contributions.
Scholes announced retirement at the end of the 2010-11 season and immediately joined the club’s coaching staff. From 1993 to 2011, the fans had watched a magic trick unfold in front of their eyes and now the trick was finally over. To honor his legacy, United held a special testimonial match in August 2011. The game against New York Cosmos was obviously won by the Red Devils and the supporters got to see the famous 25 yard goal from Scholes.
Was this the last of Scholes in a United shirt? Did Sir Alex lose his pearl in the United midfield? Surely not! Taking everyone by surprise, Paul reversed his retirement in January 2012 to provide cover and support to United’s depleted and injury plagued midfield. Despite being 37, he had not shown signs of losing his ability. Goals, assists and dictating the play were still the ammunition of Scholes’ armory. In his 700th appearance for the club on 15th September 2012, he scored a goal in 4-0 hammering of Wigan, the goal meant that the Ginger Prince had now scored in 19 consecutive seasons.
On 19th May 2013, Scholes appeared for the final time in a Red shirt as Manchester United prepared for the most difficult part of the campaign. Despite winning the league title, tears rolled in every fan’s eyes as the red Devils bid adieu to two of their gems. Sir Alex Ferguson retired as a football manager and Paul Scholes hanged his boots. The curtains had been drawn on an illustrious career for the final time.
What was Paul Scholes footballer like…
Paul Scholes has always had A-grade technical skills, in fact, it was his adeptness that allowed him to perform for so many years at such a high level. The Ginger Prince’s game changed over the years. He adapted terrifically well to his surroundings and constantly modified his game. Scholes’ sagacity can be demonstrated through his changing positions throughout the career.
Whether being Andy Cole’ strike partner or playing behind Ruud Van Nistelrooy as a creator, Scholes’ nous was never questioned. However, the role that the Englishman enjoyed the most was of the central midfielder and the deep lying playmaker. Scholes was well known for his combination play and the ability to always thread a pass to his teammates.
Under Sir Alex, the Ginger Prince had developed a unique style of making late attacking runs into the box. Scholes could easily play as a box to box midfielder or a deep seated creative role. Pulling the strings of the game is one of the most difficult tasks and Scholes used to do it with effortlessly.
What are the moments we remember Paul Scholes for…
When your team has dominated two decades in English football, you tend to have plentiful memorable moments. Paul Scholes played during the golden era of Manchester United where winning trophies had become an addiction rather than a habit. Englishman’s career had several standout moments; let’s have a look at those top five memories.
How often do you see players scoring on their debuts, impressing in their new surroundings and putting up a ten on ten performance? Paul Scholes’ debut was any young player’s fantasy that played in that era: To play and score for Manchester United on debut.
Despite being promoted as a senior player in 1993, Scholes had to wait for his debut until 1994. He made his debut in the League Cup and scored a brace against Port Vale. Scholes demonstrated neat finishing and all round awareness as he pounced on a defensive error for the first goal. The second goal was header that had only been possible because Scholes made a late run into the box to evade the defenders. Scholes had a knack of making those famous late runs right from a young age.
FA Cup secured
The word Treble had no meaning in the footballing word until Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United added a whole new dimension to it in 1999. The Red Devils became the first club to win a European Treble: Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. Paul Scholes played a very important role in securing the FA Cup.
United were facing Newcastle United in the FA Cup final, six days after lifting the Premier League crown. Teddy Sheringham gave the lead and Scholes took the credit for the assist but soon Ruud Gullit’s Newcastle United looked threatening on the break. The Magpies did come close to equalizing as well and something had to be done to kill Newcastle’s venom. Scholes scored in the 53rd minute to extend United’s lead to 2-0 and effectively ended Newcastle’s hopes of a comeback in the game.
Eliminating Barcelona on the road to Champions League in 2008
The 2008 Champions League semi final between Manchester United and Barcelona was a feast to the eye. Two of the best teams loaded with abundant talent were locking horns against each other. Manchester United escaped with a draw at Nou Camp with all to play for at Old Trafford.
There’s a saying that difficult times give rise to true champions. That’s what happened in the second leg of the semi final. Scholes previously missed United’s 1999 Champions League final due to suspension and couldn’t feature in the game which saw them win the treble. This time Scholes had an extra motivating factor running on his mind.
Paul decided to bend the night to his own will, scoring a sensational volley from 25 yards out. Barcelona number 1, Victor Valdes, had no chance as he saw the ball glide into the top corner. The Red Devils went onto win the UCL against Chelsea on penalties and Paul Scholes played a talismanic role in taking the team to the finals.
A red card against Manchester City leading to a derby loss ( Kickstart Manchester City era.. )
The Manchester derby is one of the most intense yet entertaining rivalries around the globe. Derby losses were seen as a dent on the team’s honor and legacy as the winning team supporters had the bragging rights. One can argue that the blue half of Manchester have dominated this tie in the last few years but Manchester United have always been superior for a long time. In April 2011, Manchester United faced noisy neighbors Manchester City in an exciting FA Cup semifinal.
Yaya Toure proved his power with a strong yet composed finish that gave City the lead in the 52nd minute. The Red Devils were behind for most part of the game. With 17 minutes to go and United were trying to find an equalizer but instead were dealt with a major blow as Scholes launched a high challenge on Pablo Zabaleta resulting in a red card for the Englishman. Scholes being sent off proved too much for United to cope with and ended losing the game to city rivals, Manchester City.
His last vow
On 31st May 2011, the Ginger Prince called it quits to his United career. Fans were taken aback by his sudden announcement. The following season, the team continued without Scholes in the squad. However, Manchester United were dealt with major injury blows and Scholes decided to help the club of his dreams once again.
He reversed his retirement, made a last vow to help his team from the crisis. He not only played for that season but signed a contract extension keeping him at Old Trafford until the end of 2013 season. The midfielder finally bid farewell to the game after winning yet another English Top flight medal.
Where is Paul Scholes currently ( January 2020 )…
Scholes is currently the co-owner of Salford City along with class of 92’ teammates Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs. The Englishman has also previously helped in the coaching staff of Ryan Giggs after the sack of David Moyes.
Scholes’ first managerial role was in 2015 when he along with Phil Neville when they managed Salford City as caretaker managers but the stint lasted only one game as Anthony Johnson was appointed later on.
The first major manager’s role for Scholes arrived in 2019 when he took charge of Oldham Athletic but his life as the manager was short lived as he left the club after seven games in charge citing interference from club owners.
How other premier league professional’s view Paul Scholes…
Zinedine Zidane said “There is no doubt for me that Paul Scholes is still in a class of his own. He’s almost untouchable in what he does. I never tire of watching him play. You rarely come across the complete footballer, but Scholes is as close to it as you can get. One of my regrets is that the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career.”
Xavi said “In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything. He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.”
David Beckham said “He’s always one of those people others talk about. Even playing at Real Madrid, the players always say to me ‘what’s he like’? They respect him as a footballer and see him as the ultimate.”
Thierry Henry said “Without any doubt the best player in the Premiership has to be Scholes. He knows how to do everything, and he is one who directs the way his team plays. On top of that, he has indestructible mental strength and he is a genuine competitor.”
Lionel Messi said “At La Masia his name was mentioned a lot. He’s a teacher.”
Sir Alex Ferguson said “I think Paul Scholes is the best player in England. He’s got the best skills, the best brain. No one can match him. There isn’t a player of his mould anywhere in the world. Paul is irreplaceable.”
Sir Bobby Charlton said “I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes. In so many ways Scholes is my favourite.”
What Paul Scholes says about Paul Scholes…
“I don’t like compliments. No. I prefer criticisms; prefer to prove them wrong”
“Get up. Go to work. Play the game. Get showered. Go home.”
“When it’s over I just want to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘Well, you were a half-decent player.”
“Winning the Ballon d’Or never bothered me. I just wanted to play for Manchester United.”
“I am not ashamed to admit that in the games against Barcelona I spent a lot of the time just hoping he would take up positions as far away from me as possible. Elusive is the word that immediately springs to mind when I think about Messi’s style of play. You think you have an eye on him and then – blink – he has gone, only to reappear somewhere else in space, with the ball.”
“There have been so many outstanding players I’ve had as team-mates, but if I had to choose I’d choose Giggsy, he can do anything.”
Paul Scholes Trivia…
Paul Scholes admitted that he had to buy football boots from a local store costing £40 when he found out he was going to come out of retirement and play against Manchester City in FA Cup in January 2012.
Scholes along with other class of 92’ members, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville own 50% stake in Salford City and aim to bring the club into the Football league.
On his 700th appearance for the club, Scholes scored one goal in the thumping 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic. This goal meant that the Englishman had now scored in 19 consecutive seasons. This feat was later surpassed only by teammate Ryan Giggs, who holds the record for scoring in 21 consecutive seasons.
Did you know Paul Scholes did come out of retirement once again in 2018 at the age of 43 for his son’s team, Royton town of Manchester Football League. Scholes filled in for the team against Stockport Georgians due to player shortage.
Paul Scholes has an unwanted record to his name as he stands as the third most booked player in the Top Flight with 99 bookings behind Lee Bowyer and Kevin Davies who have 102 and 101 yellow cards to their name respectively.
Scholes announced retirement from England national team in 2004 and deemed family life and club career more important. There has been a controversy that Scholes retired from international scene because then coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, played him in an out of favour position to accommodate Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in midfield.
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