Sunday, March 7, 2010

The peerless Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes rolled back the years yesterday by producing a flicker of his vintage class in helping Manchester United secure a crucial victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux. In an encounter that was characterised by the mediocrity in the play of both teams, Scholes’ goal represented a rare moment of distinction. Seizing upon an error by Jody Craddock, Scholes, composed as ever, dragged the ball wide of two defenders, before slotting into the bottom right corner with unerring accuracy. With this goal, Scholes joins 18 other players on 100 or more goals, in the Premier League, a landmark which was delayed in its achievement only due to a tactical and seemingly pragmatic shuffle which has seen him positioned deeper in midfield.

Ever since a return to action after recovering from an unusual eye problem in 2006, Scholes has been deployed in a holding role that has seen the goals dry up, if not the class, of which he still has tonnes in reserve. There used to be scores of goals, ranging from finessed headers to full-blooded screamers, but the new role has seen Scholes’ ingenuity restricted to different areas of the pitch. Possessed of pristine touch and an enormously wide range of passing, few have dictated the tempo of a game as well as Scholes has from a position that he was up till then unaccustomed to playing in. Age though had to catch up and particularly this season, he has looked weary and out of pace at times, which seemed to suggest that the end is nigh, but a return to a more familiar position in midfield over the last few games has caused a definite rejuvenation in him.

The goals against Manchester City in the Carling Cup and AC Milan in the Champions League may have had a touch of fortune about them, but they were a product of Scholes’ endeavour to make runs into the box, without abandoning caution, yet with renewed vitality and with a sense of matchless timing. Against Arsenal, in United’s crucial victory, it was only when Carrick and Scholes swapped, with the former shifting to a holding role that United were able to dictate the game and secure victory in a comfortably authoritative manner. His age makes the holding role more suitable, yet his craftiness is put to best use in more advanced positions. Endeavouring to strike a delicate balance, Ferguson has astutely interchanged the position of his midfielders with Scholes tending to start deep, yet shifting further forward over the course of a game in as unconfused a manner as may be possible. Even against Wolves on Saturday, Scholes sat deep to begin with, but as the game wore on and with United struggling to make an impact, Ferguson tweaked his system to ensure a more advanced job for Scholes, which in the end proved the difference.

Scholes himself feels that this could be his last season, but with no obvious replacement available in the squad, a contract is on offer for an additional season, which if Scholes is inclined to carry on, will be signed without any fuss regardless of the finer details, not least the proffered wage. Scholes is one of a kind, a player bereft of modern-day football’s celebrity culture, one possessed with the most imaginative of footballing brains to go with peerless technical polish. No footballer has given me greater pleasure with their exploits on the pitch. Cherish him, whilst he is still there, for there never will be another of his ilk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Give or take a killer foul here or there, eh? Have to say that I am not a fan, but cannot ignore the talent.

Scholes cannot play a holding role because a) his legs are gone and b) He cannot tackle or anticipate. He was the distributor earlier (what my old coach used to call the schemer)... and right now he cannot do it anymore against the top sides unless ManU play the 4-5-1, with Carrick and Fletcher to support him. Earlier, just one would have been enough, and ManU could play 2 at the top.