“His passes stretched forever.”
To cite any other player being more dominant and expressive in a match this season than Paul Scholes was against Fulham is nigh impossible.
The ginger prince shies from cameras and adulation, but on the field he feels, more profoundly than any fortunate observer, the artistry and sheer magnificence he manifested Tuesday like no other; and he knows it gutturally.
But he won’t talk about it. Scholes was one of the first players to leave the field after his side clinically dismantled Fulham 3-0, shifting quickly off his stage as teammates and opponents alike hustled to shake his hand and look into his eyes for any sign of higher being.
This left a slightly more willing, though equally uncomfortable Wayne Rooney to attend to interviewing obligations with BBC.
Rooney stammered, bumbled, and twitched, as well as employing many other impression management mannerisms, to generally evade his way through the queries with perfunctory, scattered answers. But, as the topic turned to Scholes, his eyes squinted in awe and understanding:
“Some of his football tonight, I don’t think there’s any other player in the world who could produce that,” Rooney said, taken aback. “In my eyes…,” he continued, shaking his head, “He’s one of the best ever,” now looking quite certain.
Other players and legends (and writers) have been similarly lovestruck by the intelligent, modest, gentlemanly style Scholesy boy alone exudes.
Edgar Davids: “I’m not the best, Paul Scholes is.”
Thierry Henry: “He has indestructible mental strength and he is a genuine competitor.”
Zinedine Zidane: “Scholes is undoubtedly the best midfielder of his generation.”
Bobby Charlton: “I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes.”
And, in recent weeks, when asked what the most amazing thing he’s seen in practice was, manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed Scholes is quite cheeky too.
“The most amazing thing is Paul Scholes, in the morning, when a player goes to have a pee at the side of the training pitch and he fires balls from 40 yards right on top of their head!”
“He got Gary Neville right in the head and Neville chased him across the pitch!”
Scholesy might have had even more fun Tuesday at the Theatre of Dreams.
His passes stretched forever, close and far, far away with unerring accuracy—usually bulls-eying the preferred foot of the recipient, to be fair.
Scholes was the conduit; he was the courier. He signed, sealed, and delivered five or six balls, pin to point, from the center of the pitch far out onto the wing in the first ten minutes, as throughout, just stretching his legs; warming up.
Ten days rested, he then flipped, dinked, tapped, and sprayed, weaving intricacies around enamored yet sad Fulham players of which they never contemplated and would never comprehend. He was entranced on the field like a crocodile giving birth along the Nile swamps.
Scholes even had some of the best tackles of the match, getting right up into the Fulham midfield and simply robbing his ball from enfeebled bystanders on occasions.
To be fair, against a beaten and downtrodden team from London, most United players were in control, with Ronaldo being a conspicuous exception. He could do no more than whine and misfire while Carrick and Tevez were also limited.
No one could, or would, compare that night with the inimitable Scholes though.
His lashing goal was a vintage strike on the volley direct from a corner, a routine often attempted over the years of his career with now at least two permanent connections and tallies etched in history. It squeaked under goalkeeper Schwarzer, and Paul Scholes’ grin was ear-to-ear, arms raised in glee.
United went away 3-0 to the good with a classy Berbatov and poaching Rooney also making the score-sheet and match reports.
However, this one is mostly about Paul Scholes. The romantic display by the diminutive Salford man, as he twinkles into memory during the last of his career, might just be the best 90 minutes of it.
And for any fan claiming to appreciate football beyond the goals and awards; who doesn’t look at, but into, the minutia of play, must take the time to download, or otherwise manufacture, a replay of this match, if not for their own personal growth!
For today, the aging paragon modestly exhibited natural football in a simple state, without frills or pretext, as ever, just precision and execution resultant from hours, days, and years of honest application.
And that is the beauty of Scholes.