RIP Paul Scholes

November 11, 2009 Tags: Reads 24 comments

The loss of arguably the greatest player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, was a blow Manchester United was always going to struggle to overcome. The Portuguese winger left a void, especially in the goals column. Whilst strikers come and go, Ronaldo’s goals masked what United is really missing – a true goalscoring midfielder – Paul Scholes.

United fans are big on facts. Scholes’ record alone speaks volume for how effective the former-England international was in his heyday. In 2002/2003 the midfielder managed a staggering 20. While in the proceeding two seasons Scholes’ tally still surpassed 10 in each campaign.

This is no longer the case, which is attributable to the decline to the player’s ever-diminishing physical ability. It’s an understandable part of the Scholes’ advancing years.

While United’s squad has a number of midfielders, and Scholes remains a great player for United on occasion, an heir has never been found.

The high expectations placed on Anderson, as a free-scoring player, have not been realised. Perhaps because of, not despite, his newfound defensive role.

Meanwhile, Fletcher, for all his guile and seemingly tireless running, cannot contribute 15 goals a season. The same is true of Carrick, who has never – and most likely will never – own the goal-scoring touch. It’s a deficiency that will cost the former-Tottenham midfielder a seat on the plane to South Africa this summer.

The same is true of Park Ji-Sung, while the sight of Owen Hargreaves on the football pitch is almost as elusive as a Liverpool Premier League title. Nani, meanwhile, has become a victim of his own ambition. The player’s move to United stifled his development and he is likely to leave.

Then there are other midfielders such as Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan, who are improving with each fixture, but yet to unduly trouble the opposition net.

The same cannot be said of United’s closest rivals, each of whom possesses midfielders capable of scoring. Players who get ahead of the ball in support of the attack.

Liverpool has Steven Gerrard, while any one of Chelsea’s midfielders is capable of scoring. Arsenal has Cesc Fabregas, City boast Stephen Ireland and even Blackburn can call upon David Dunn.

United’s crunch match at Chelsea illustrated the shortcomings in the squad. Despite United’s performance, Petr Cech never looked troubled by the away side’s futile long-range attempts. Chelsea seemed happy to offer Ferguson’s side time and space.

What of the future though? A club boasting top-class facilities and a strong academy should have produced more players of Scholes’ ilk in recent years.

Darron Gibson is, perhaps, the closest that fans have seen, and the Irishman’s brief outings in the first team have not been impressive.

The best bet might be Tom Cleverley, on loan at Watford, who has impressed with six goals from midfield this season. Sir Alex Ferguson might not trust the England under-21 international just yet, but his time may come.

However, time waits for no man. Valencia, Obertan and Cleverley must soon realise the potential of their undoubted talent or, inevitably, United will nvest elsewhere.


Mic - November 11, 2009 Reply

RIP Paul Scholes? Bad choice of words considering Robert Enke died today! I do think we miss a goal scoring midfielder but already different players are chipping in so I do think we’re fine.

Ed - November 11, 2009 Reply

I can’t speak for the author but I think it’s pretty obvious the headline is metaphorical rather than literal.

Elliott - November 11, 2009 Reply

Spot on – no goals from the wings and the centermids have not looked good. Carrick was scorching hot a few years ago, but has cooled off. I think Valencia and Nani will both be good players, emphasis on “will” and not “are.”

Bobby - November 11, 2009 Reply

Mark my words if MANUTD performs badly this year SAF will offload some of fringe players including the old guards to give the young players chance to shine. My conscience tell me that had it not been to 4th tittle in row record that SAF dreams of, this would have been the right year for transition.

Gaj - November 11, 2009 Reply

Great article, true indeed.
But please, the title is a bit too much and too dramatic.

ginger18legend - November 11, 2009 Reply

1 word – Ljajic.

Z - November 11, 2009 Reply

But Chelsea’s famous goalscoring midfielders, Lampard and Ballack, barely had a chance between them. I won’t argue that we’re short of a goalscoring midfielder but using the Chelsea game to highlight it? The stats of the past five or so seasons would be more than convincing; citing an impressive performance at a difficult ground is not.

I have high hopes for Petrucci as a goalscoring midfielder.

S - November 11, 2009 Reply

What a horrible title for this story!

David Eckles - November 11, 2009 Reply

Fletchers goal threat has improved over the past few seasons along with other parts of his game – but obviously not to scholes level. Youngsters at the club like Petrucci and Eikrem look promising, and Ljajic coming in Jan along with the returning tom cleverly, hopfully one of these will break into the first team this year and give us a wee push.

Valencia also has already scored for us as many goals as he did in the whole of last season for wigan.

I reckon Valencia & Fletcher are both capable of getting 10 goals this year, i hope so anyway!

Edge - November 11, 2009 Reply

This title is unforgivable. Does this author not see that this is eye-catching for all the wrong reasons. Simply horendous mis use of poetic license. Have you never heard of bad omens. Please do not use such strong innuendo so flipantly. This article does not reflect well on your site because of this title alone. I am a massive United fan and I think I speak for all who feel like me when I say we dont appreciate the bad taste exhibited here considering that Paul Scholes is a PERSON as well as a player and this title could make many others hearts skip a beat(as it did mine.) Long live Scholes, the player and the man!!!

Ed - November 11, 2009 Reply

Well I’m going to defend Dan’s title again. I’m afraid you just don’t get it. It’s a METAPHOR – the death of Scholes the attacking footballer who scores 20 goals a season. It’s not literal!!

Chris Sterio - November 11, 2009 Reply

Exactly correct, United need to find a replacement for Scholes. I doubt they will find one from England, Sneijder, Moutinho, Robinho are probably worth a mention. We need a replacement for Scholes and another forward in the transfer window…

Edge - November 11, 2009 Reply

Ed Im happy for you that you understand what a metaphor is, truelly I am. But I cant see that anyones comments on this article suggesting they dont understand this title is a metaphor. Many such as myself simply feel it is a very bad flexing of journalists libertys. Its not that important anyhow (so this will be my final comment on the subject,) but you just imagine reading a simularly titled article which was writen to symbolise the demise of a particular aspect of your professional career. Do you not think you would find the language a little too strong?

J-Diz - November 11, 2009 Reply

I’m going to have to show some support to the author – the title is fine. Nothing wrong with it at all. I’m very surprised that anyone could find it offensive. It’s meaning is obvious if you read even half of the article. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either –

a) an absolute idiot (they read the whole article and still don’t get it)
b) a reactionary idiot (posting a comment after only reading the title) or, worst of all
c) someone who feigns offence at anything they think can be classed as even remotely politically incorrect because they think it somehow makes them a better person. It doesn’t. I’m looking at you, Edge.

P.S – I think Gibson will eventually turn into a very good goalscoring midfielder for us.

David - November 11, 2009 Reply

Correct me if im wrong. But Ronaldo was also a midfielder and Scholes barely got any games last season did he?

TrueManuFan - November 11, 2009 Reply

I do not object to the title of the author. He is entitled to his creative freedoms.

But that is where it stops. I do not agree with his assesment of Paul Scholes and his contribution to the team. He may have slowed down as he himself agrees. But still with his vast experience and skill of retaining the ball (which is better than most of the current crop of Manu’s midfield) his presence in the team is essential until United buy someone like David Villa to replace him.

The game against Spurs (one of United’s best this season) he reminded everyone of superior abilities (even in those 60 mins he was on pitch – he was wrongly sent off thereasfter).

A Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher combination is United’s would be ideal for United (given the current squad). Each of them has his own strengths and each knows that the other is not going to loose the ball at any cost. This would allow Fletcher the luxury of moving forward (something he has shown in the past he is capable of). Also Paul Scholes could still dictate games from deep the way Pirlo does it.

With the commitment and hunger still visible it would be wrong for SAF to write off Paul Scholes from the big games.

Hope sense finally prevails in him and he plays Scholes in the big matches.

Just a fact – Whenever United have lost a big match (dating back to CL finals) recently Scholes has been on the bench and Anderson has started.

Tufty - November 12, 2009 Reply

Scholes often retains the ball far to much, far to many sideways passes, than killer balls to forwards.
Anderson has never been classed as a free scoring midfielder, so no idea where that tag has come from.
We lack goals from the middle and directness from the wings. Nani is our most direct winger.

J-Diz - November 12, 2009 Reply

Villa, a replacement for Scholes? Unless I have missed something and Villa can also play as a central midfielder, I don’t think that is true.

Also, as many people before me have noticed, Scholes does not exert the same influence against teams with a strong midfield. He is just not physical enough anymore to win a tough midfield battle. He still has a big role to play for us though, as against the weaker teams his use of the ball is as good as ever, and when he gets time on the ball he can hurt teams.

Dan - November 12, 2009 Reply

Just to clarify before Anderson came to United he was known across the continent as an attacking midfielder. In a friendly against United for Porto, where they first truly realised his talent, he was running through United and was shooting from 40 yards.

We all know Ronaldo was never an old fashioned winger, his job was to score goals and attack. Not support his full back. The game against Arsenal in the Champions League surely demonstrates his attacking prowess rather than his defensive steel

Jeff - November 15, 2009 Reply

I only came on the site to say a few things about the podcast, but came across this article and had to comment.

Metaphor or not it is in very poor taste to equate a drop in form of one of our best ever midfielders to his actual death. Moreso in a week when a footballer has actually died!

Granted you have free journalistic licence to write whatever you want for your titles & you might think it’s ok (whatever gets people clicking on the article, right?), but I would suggest you think more carefully about your headlines in future as it is blatantly misleading and has clearly turned a few readers off.

Not even the Daily Star would stoop to such ridiculously low levels to grab attention.

(And btw, as a ‘metaphor’ it doesn’t actually work anyway so you got that one wrong too).

Ed - November 15, 2009 Reply

Actually you just explained why it’s just fine as a metaphor. Six active players died over the past
12 months, still doesn’t make it wrong. You’re entitled to an opinion so I’m happy to print it here but to suggest a headline is chosen to get clicks is riddiculous and offensive. Do you see any ads here?

Alexander - November 15, 2009 Reply

What about Zoran Tosic?
I think that he is a great young player

Dan - November 17, 2009 Reply

The failure to sign Aaron Ramsey may have cost United much more than they would have expected.

He looks much more the natural heir to paul scholes than any young player I’ve seen

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