Club Legends #3 – Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes is a modern day legend, one of the greatest players the English game has seen. Probably 80% of players that played with Scholes for both Manchester United and England say he’s the best player they’ve played with. Numerous world stars have been quoted as saying he’s the best they’ve played against.

He is someone who never wanted the limelight and probably doesn’t enjoy being heaped with praise by his peers. Scholes was highly regarded for his technical skills, renowned for accurate passing, intelligent movement and powerful shooting range.

Here are some quotes about Scholes from team-mates and opponents:

Scholes was born Salford in Greater Manchester on 16th November 1974 the son of Stewart and Marina Scholes, he is of Irish descent as his grandparents are from Ireland. Scholes excelled at both football and cricket whilst at school, he began training at Manchester United at the age of 14 after being spotted by a scout visiting his school. He signed for United on apprenticeship terms in 1991 on leaving school and signed with the club as a professional in 1993. Scholes was not a member of the 1992 Fa Youth Cup winning side that included Giggs, Beckham, Butt and Gary Neville but did reach the final the following year in a team that included Phil Neville, Beckham and Gary Neville.

Although signing professional terms with the club on 23rd July 1993, he did not make his breakthrough to the first team squad until the 1994/95 season. He made seventeen league appearances and scored five goals in this season. He scored two goals on his senior debut, a 2-1 victory over Port Vale on 21st September 1994 in the League Cup. He made his League debut three days later against Ipswich Town and scored a goal in a 3-2 defeat. His first goal at Old Trafford came in 2-0 league win over Coventry City. in the summer of 1995 Mark Hughes was sold to Chelsea, one of the reasons for letting Hughes leave the club was to give Scholes more opportunities in the first team. In this season he scored fourteen goals in all competitions as United won the League and Fa Cup to be the first English team to win The Double for a second time.

Paul Scholes celebrates first Championship win
Scholes celebrates first of 11 Premier League Titles

After Roy Keane suffered a knee injury in September 1997 and was ruled out for the 1997/98 season, Scholes was moved to a central midfield role after starting his United career in a more advanced forward position. In 1998/99 season Scholes was a key member of the United squad that won The Treble (Premier League Title, Fa Cup and European Cup). In this season Scholes played fifty-one games in all competitions, scoring eleven goals. Scholes scored one of the two goals in Fa Cup final win over Newcastle United and although he missed the European Cup final through suspension, he played a major part in getting United to the final. He scored a crucial goal in the San Siro against Inter Milan in the quarter-final second leg as United got a 1-1 draw to win the tie 3-1 on aggregate.

Scholes and Keane (also suspended for final) lift 1999 European Cup
Scholes and Keane (also suspended for final) lift 1999 European Cup

Scholes scored a career high of twenty goals in all competitions in 2002/03 including a hat-trick against Newcastle United in a 6-2 victory. United won the Premier League title in this season, it was Scholes sixth Premier League winners medal but would be the last one until the 2006/07 as United were going through a rebuilding period during this time with young players such as Ronaldo and Rooney. Scholes did pick up another Fa Cup winners medal in the 2003/04 season as United beat Millwall 3-0 in the final. Scholes scored the winning goal in Fa Cup semi-final against Arsenal that year. On 22nd October 2006 in a 2-0 victory over Liverpool in which Scholes scored, was his five hundredth appearance for the club. He was only the ninth player to play five hundred games for Manchester United. As United once again won the Premier League in the 2006/07 season, Scholes had one of his finest seasons as he was in included in PFA Team of the Year and was shortlisted for the PFA Players Player Of The Year. He should have won the award not only in this season but at some point in his career. Perhaps one the reasons why he never won the award was that he doesn’t want the limelight and his fellow professionals knew this.

The 2007/08 was another good one for Scholes and United as they completed a Premier League and European Cup double, beating Chelsea to the league title and also defeated Chelsea on penalties in the first all English European Cup final in Moscow. United reached this final by beating Barcelona in the semi-finals. The first leg at the Nou Camp which was Scholes 100th appearance in the competition ended 0-0. In the second leg at Old Trafford Scholes scored the only goal, a trademark long range effort, as United won the game 1-0. So Scholes and United had finally made it back to the European Cup final, 9 years on from winning it at the Nou Camp in 1999. This time Scholes was able to play his part. He played a neat one-two with Wes Brown before Brown crossed for Ronaldo to score the opening goal. The game finished 1-1 after extra-time by which time Scholes had left the pitch so he had to watch on as his team-mates took the penalties that won United their third European Cup and a second winners medal for Scholes, fifty years on from The Munich Air Disaster.

Family Man Scholes lifting the European Cup with two of his children, Aaron and Alicia
Family Man Scholes lifting the European Cup with two of his children, Aaron and Alicia

Scholes was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in September 2008, joining fellow United inductees in Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Nobby Stiles, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and David Beckham. His six hundredth appearance for United came on 22nd April 2009 in a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth. On 16th February 2010 Scholes scored in a 3-2 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League (European Cup) becoming the first player to score against both Inter Milan and AC Milan at the San Siro in the competition. On 6th March 2010 Scholes became the nineteenth player to score 100 Premier League goals and the third to do it for United, joining Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.

Scholes helped United win the league in 2010/11 season and the club also reached the European Cup final for the third time in four seasons. They lost the final 3-1 to Barcelona having also lost the 2008/09 final to the same team. A few days after the European Cup final defeat at Wembley Scholes announced he would be retiring and joining the United coaching staff. After his retirement United struggled to replace him and on 8th January 2012 Scholes came out of retirement as United were suffering a lot of injuries in the midfield area and also Scholes himself had realised he could still do a job for the team even if he couldn’t play every match. He made his return as substitute in the 3-2 win over Manchester City in the Fa Cup third round. His first start of his return came in the next league game against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford. Scholes also scored in this game which was a 3-0 win for United. Despite the disappointment of losing the title on goal difference to Manchester City, Scholes decided to play on for another season.

So in what turn out to Scholes final season, for definite this time. United and Scholes regained the Premier League Title from neighbours Manchester City. Scholes played twenty-one games and score one goal in all competitions in his final season, the majority of those coming in the Premier League. He also passed the seven hundred appearances for the club in this season and scored his only goal of the season in this game, a 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic. Scholes made his final appearance for United in final game of the season, a 5-5 draw against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Fittingly in the game Scholes picked up a yellow card in the game. People say Scholes didn’t know how to tackle but I think a lot of the time he was just reminding his opponents he was there and also not helped by some changes in the rules regarding acceptable tackles.

Scholes racked up 718 appearances for Manchester United and scoring 155 goals in all competitions. He is third on the all-time list of top appearance makers for Manchester United, only behind Ryan Giggs and Sir Bobby Charlton. He is tenth on the list of all-time top goalscorers for Manchester United. Scholes represented England on sixty-six occasions and scoring fourteen goals. He played in two World Cups in 1998 and 2002 and two European Championships in 2000 and 2004. He retired from Internationals after the European Championship in 2004, I think partly down the fact that he didn’t want to be travelling and missed his family and also I don’t think England appreciated what they had in Scholes as near end of his England career, he was pushed out to the left-wing to accommodate Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the centre of midfield. Who in my opinion are not fit to lace Scholes boots.

About Andrew Hyslop 398 Articles
Creator of Sir Alex Ferguson Way and writer of football books

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