Scholes: 20 years as a pro



There was little fanfare from the maestro on Wednesday; it would, in all honesty, be more surprising if Paul Scholes actually knew the significance of the date: 23 January, 1992. Remember it, for these moments come by but once in a lifetime – two decades on from Scholes inking a signature on his first professional contract with Manchester United, alongside David Beckham, Nicky Butt, and Gary Neville, the midfielder is still making a mark at Old Trafford.

The little ginger kid with magic in his feet, who’d rather disappear into the shadows than listen to the inevitable plaudits on another anniversary. No celebrity for Scholes; no VIP restaurants, overpriced nightclubs, billboards or TV adverts; no post-match interviews with flowing man-of the-match-champagne; none of the hyperbolic media, nor the lingerie models hanging off his arms and on his every word. To Scholes everything bar playing has always been bullshit.

Instead there have been goals. Lots of them. And quality almost without peer in any midfielder of his generation. The flicks, tricks, 60-yard passes to feet. The 25-yard volleys, flying headers and ever-so-late tackles. The time and space on the ball that is such a rare commodity in modern football.

It has been 20 years of joy for those following. Not solely for the success that Scholes has been part of at Manchester United, but the unique brand of entertainment he fostered too. In 20 years’ time, 50 surely, Scholes will be remembered as one of the United greats. Player or not next season, United should never let this gem go.

After all, the reverence shows no bounds at Old Trafford – supporters, players, management.

Yet, remarkably, Scholes is not appreciated in the same way in the country – the cost of playing for the nation’s biggest club. Scholes played more than 60 times for England as well; it would have been more than a 100 but for Sven Goran Eriksson’s negligent abuse of the midfielder’s role. Ironic, perhaps, that a Swede should sum up the English reticence towards the technically gifted that the Scot Ferguson has always embraced.

“If he was Spanish,” said Barcelona’s maestro Xavi Hernández, “maybe he would have been valued more.” Had Scholes’ birth come in Salamanca not Salford he would surely have been nominated for the game’s greatest personal honours.

Either way, Scholes is unlikely to look back with any regret.

The midfielder has always been valued by his fellow pros though; from Zinedine Zidane, to Pélé, always a players’ player. No more so than Andreas Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi, who on the conclusion of Barcelona’s victory over United at Wembley in 2011 sought out the wee man. Scholes took home the match ball; the opponents his shirt.

After all, Scholes has always been the embodiment of the United spirit that has long been ebbing away from the game. There is unlikely to be another quite like him.

Yet, here is a player who chose not to leverage his status as United’s finest – Scholes has never been Old Trafford’s highest earner, nor anything more than a reluctant participant in the marketing machine.

Like all the greats there is an enigma to Scholes too. The ‘dark side’, as Arsène Wenger so crudely put it. “A dirty little git,” Scholes’ former colleague Butt once said. The kid with asthma who conquered the world owed no little part to his steely resolve. It has served United well through 715 pre and post-retirement games for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

Of the cohort only Beckham is still playing, although the midfielder’s future is yet to be decided after leaving LA Galaxy in November. One more mega contract surely awaits in a career that is now more advertiser’s tool than playing resource.

Meanwhile, Butt finished his career abroad, playing three times for South China in winter 2010/11. An ignominious end. At least Neville retired into punditry with Sky TV at just the right time.

In that Scholes stands peerless.

Yet, it is likely to be Scholes’ last season at Old Trafford, before he slips off into retirement for a second time and, presumably, into another coaching role in Ferguson’s staff. The Scot will waste not more than 700 games experience even if a brief sojourn into coaching United’s kids last season brought Scholes more frustration than satisfaction.

Retirement may not have worked for the 38-year-old first time round, but, in the modern parlance, the legs have certainly now gone. Increasingly on the periphery, Scholes has started just nine games in all competitions this season – as many as the perpetually injured Anderson.

None of that will distract from an admirable comeback and a celebrated career. Now more than two decades as the professional’s professional.

Scholes in Numbers
715 appearances for United
155 goals scored
66 caps for England
10 Premier League titles
5 Community Shields
3 FA Cups
2 League Cups
2 European Cups
1 Intercontinental Cup
1 FIFA Club World Cup

On Scholes’ career
“He is the best midfielder of his generation. I would have loved to have played alongside him.” – Pep Guardiola

“In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen – the most complete – is Scholes. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.” – Xavi Hernandez

“I tell anyone who asks me – Scholes is the best English player.” – Laurent Blanc

“An amazingly gifted player who remained an unaffected human being.” – Roy Keane

“The best? Without any doubt it has to be Paul Scholes. He knows how to do everything, and he is the one who directs the way his team plays. On top of that, he has indestructible mental strength.” – Thierry Henry

“There isn’t a player of his mould anywhere else in the world.” – Glenn Hoddle

“If you ask footballers to pick out the player they most admire, so many of them will pick Paul Scholes. He’s the most consistent and naturally gifted player we’ve had for a long, long time.” – Alan Shearer

“Scholes is one of the most complete footballers I’ve ever seen. His one-touch play is phenomenal. Whenever I have played against him, I never felt I could get close to him.” – Eidur Gudjohnsen

“Every one of us is just trying to become as good as him. Everyone can learn from Paul Scholes. I’m not the best, Paul
Scholes is.” – Edgar Davids

“He is the one whose level I aspire to. He is the best player in the Premier League.” – Cesc Fabregas

“The player in the Premiership I admire most? Easy – Scholes.” – Patrick Vieira

“I can’t understand why Scholes has never won the player of the year award. He should have won it long ago. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seek the limelight like some of the other ‘stars’.” -Thierry Henry

“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.” – Zinedine Zidane

“Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him.” – Marcello Lippi

“Good enough to play for Brazil. I love to watch Scholes, to see him pass, the boy with the red hair and the red shirt.” – Socrates

“I’m saddened because I think we as spectators, not only in this country but right through out Europe and the rest of the world, will be missing one hell of a footballer.” – Ray Wilkins

“Paul Scholes is my favourite player. He epitomises the spirit of Manchester United and everything that is good about football.” – Sir Bobby Charlton

“Without question, I think Paul Scholes is the best player in England. He’s got the best skills, the best brain. No one can match him.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

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  • Pikey McScum

    I love you Paul x

  • dozer

    He’s my only favourite player in any sport. I’m glad he’s back from his retirement. He should have come on as a sub against Tottenham, too bad the option wasn’t there.

  • Anantax

    True legend and great servant of the club.

  • Spudiator

    I hope he does stay on to coach and inspire the younger players, his wealth of experience is priceless, and he could teach them a thing or two about keeping grounded and demanding Hollywood salaries before they’ve even accomplished anything (a la Zeki Fryers). As much as he evidently can’t cut it in the Premier League any more, it will be a great shame to see his career finally end if he does hang up his boots this soon, as seems increasingly inevitable.

  • captainhormone

    My fave united player ever…

  • Rafael

    Great article, its always amazing to see how respected he is among the football players and how little recognition he got form the press, but then again that shows how much of a popularity contest is the sports journalism

  • han

    he leads such a simple uncomplicated life – no hang ups with the press and keeps himself to himself
    wonder how he blows his load every month (his salary)?

  • Dean Jackson

    Hopefully Paul will be mentoring the likes of Powell and Lingard when he retires. Proud to have him, even at the end of his career he is still better than most CM in the Premier League.

    I’ve been reading Unitedrant for a while now and this:

    “To Scholes everything bar playing has always been bullshit”.

    By far the best sentence I’ve read. Great writing Ed.

    • Mongoletsi

      Agreed!

  • madredmonkey

    Legend 18

  • Coach Herbie

    BREAKING NEWS. Man. United have just bought a player for 20 million. The story was just on the news but I did not catch the name. But I do believe it is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. The news said the player was in Manchester for a medical. Iam on the website trying to verify this story.

    • Mongoletsi

      You… you go and verify that Herbs. Yeah, you do that.

      *facepalm*

  • http://www.visual-intrusion.com Robbo

    Commenter said:
    BREAKING NEWS. Man. United have just bought a player for 20 million. The story was just on the news but I did not catch the name. But I do believe it is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. The news said the player was in Manchester for a medical. Iam on the website trying to verify this story.

    Fucking hell the latest insider scoop from Coach Herbie

  • kramer

    hahaha, herbie’s a legend. so’s scholes

  • bman

    Though I often dread to see him come onto the pitch these days, I don’t want to see him go either.

  • captainhormone

    captainhormone said:
    My fave united player ever…

    In fact my fave player ever

  • captainhormone

    Commenter said:
    BREAKING NEWS. Man. United have just bought a player for 20 million. The story was just on the news but I did not catch the name. But I do believe it is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. The news said the player was in Manchester for a medical. Iam on the website trying to verify this story.

    In other news, man invents wheel

    LKHF

    faffing

  • Pikey McScum

    Robbo said:
    Fucking hell the latest insider scoop from Coach Herbie

    If I were han I’d be raging at the Rant love-in for Herbie

    Cos he’s fucking awesome, that’s why – don’t forget your coat on the way out han!

  • http://www.visual-intrusion.com Robbo

    captainhormone said:
    In fact my fave player ever

    Who Coach fucking Herbie ???

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Commenter said:
    BREAKING NEWS. Man. United have just bought a player for 20 million. The story was just on the news but I did not catch the name. But I do believe it is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. The news said the player was in Manchester for a medical. Iam on the website trying to verify this story.

    FFS HERBIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Give your fuckin head a shake!

    • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

      You love it Alf

  • steggo

    Scholes is an absolute United legend and the best player since Best. Pity that Swedish twat didn’t appreciate his talent. Instead of constantly accommodating Lampard and Gerrard he should have had the footballing imagination to build his England team around Scholes. What an opportunity was missed!

  • uncleknobheadffs

    he played the best football of his life next to carrick after he came back from that eye problem
    before that i remember people doubted him what with keane being next to him doing the lot for the pevious ten years

    LKHF

    faffing

  • William

    Scholes- the best passer of the ball, no one keeps possession better,great team spirit -SIMPLY a legend

  • brianofnazareth

    captainhormone said:
    My fave united player ever…

    Nothing to do with the fact you saw his cock.

  • brianofnazareth

    Commenter said:
    BREAKING NEWS. Man. United have just bought a player for 20 million. The story was just on the news but I did not catch the name. But I do believe it is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. The news said the player was in Manchester for a medical. Iam on the website trying to verify this story.

    Herbie goes bananas.

    • Mongoletsi

      HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Hope he goes this summer and not come back again. He should take Giggs with him even though the Welsh Wizard is up to his old tricks again of playing out of his skin when angling for a new contract!!

    Am not asking for much. He has already tarnished his image with me for staying this long. Please carry on with the love-in…

  • Pikey McScum

    Calvino said:
    Hope he goes this summer and not come back again. He should take Giggs with him even though the Welsh Wizard is up to his old tricks again of playing out of his skin when angling for a new contract!!

    Am not asking for much. He has already tarnished his image with me for staying this long. Please carry on with the love-in…

    ffs

    Haven’t you got some scam emails to send?

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Calvino said:
    Hope he goes this summer and not come back again. He should take Giggs with him even though the Welsh Wizard is up to his old tricks again of playing out of his skin when angling for a new contract!!

    Am not asking for much. He has already tarnished his image with me for staying this long. Please carry on with the love-in…

    That’s a ridiculous post.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Alf,
    Why do you think so? If I start to write about all the great memories I have of Paul Scholes it will be idiots like that who posted before you that will remind me of how much I have slated him in the past four years. So I stuck with me present line.

    His last good season was the 06/07. It has been a joke ever since…

  • Pikey McScum

    You’re flogging a dead horse here Cal.

    But I admire your stubbornness, idiotic though it may

    You cunt x

    • Ant

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

      I love the sign off, it has just resulted in me spitting coffee all over my monitor.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    That’s a ridiculous post.

    This is a thread celebrating 20 years of a United great… not a thread about whether or not he’s been gash lately.
    We all know your opinion on Scholes and Giggs still playing, when they should be sucking on Werthers, and arguing who’s got the thickest ear hair… but this isn’t even about whether or not Ferguson is right or wrong to pick Scholes over Anderson/Cleverly, or De Gea…
    So instead of trying to turn this into an argument about whther or not Scholes in a cunt for still playing, and Ferguson is a cunt for still picking him… why can’t you just say… “yeah, Scholes was good”… or if that hurts too much, then how about saying nothing at all???
    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.””Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Calvino said:
    Alf,
    Why do you think so? If I start to write about all the great memories I have of Paul Scholes it will be idiots like that who posted before you that will remind me of how much I have slated him in the past four years. So I stuck with me present line.
    His last good season was the 06/07. It has been a joke ever since…

    This is a thread celebrating 20 years of a United great… not a thread about whether or not he’s been gash lately.
    We all know your opinion on Scholes and Giggs still playing, when they should be sucking on Werthers, and arguing who’s got the thickest ear hair… but this isn’t even about whether or not Ferguson is right or wrong to pick Scholes over Anderson/Cleverly, or De Gea…
    So instead of trying to turn this into an argument about whether or not Scholes is a cunt for still playing, and Ferguson is a cunt for still picking him… why can’t you just say… “yeah, Scholes was good”… or if that hurts too much, then how about saying nothing at all???

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • Pikey McScum

    ^^^ I want to have your babies Alf *swoon*

  • Just1n

    Scholes should have retired after 15 years. Shadow of his former self. Sad to see.

  • uncleknobheadffs

    this soton game is the sort taggart would throw him into to make it competitive

  • Anantax

    Scholes has is car stolen apparently…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-21243965

  • sheesh

    Someone took a piss on Balotelli’s camouflage car, apparently.

  • sidney