Paul Aaron Scholes recently celebrated his 600th appearance in a Manchester United shirt. Joining a club that consists of Ryan Gigs, Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes, where these players receive plaudits, accolades and awards, Paul Scholes is a humble more understated type, preferring to let his football do the talking, while also shunning the celebrity footballer lifestyle.
After making his debut against on 21 September 1994 in a League Cup game against Port Vale, where he scored twice in a 2–1 victory, he has gone on to become a fixture in the Manchester United side. However, to begin with his appearances were more frequent from the substitutes bench as back then he operated much higher up the pitch, playing as an auxiliary striker, a position then occupied by Eric Cantona. But even then he managed to score 14 goals in 1995/96’s Double-winning campaign.
As the years have progressed he has adapted and at the same time moved further back, to the centre of midfield where he is most recognised. Even now he is modifying the way he plays, adopting a deep lying playmaker role and can often be seen sitting in front of the backline spraying 60 yard passes. Marcelo Lippi is one who would certainly have him in his side, “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. An all-round midfielder who possesses quality and character in abundance” the World Cup winning boss is noted as saying.
Paul Scholes is a die-hard Oldham Athletic supporter even though he signed with Manchester United aged 14 years. A great example of his demeanor and personality was in evidence during the 2002 World Cup where he was asked by Argentine media who his favorite all time footballers were. Most expected Diego Maradona, it was a no brainer surely, but Scholes replied,” Frankie Bunn” who scored six goals for Oldham in the 7-0 League Cup win over Scarborough in 1989, while also mentioning striking legend, Andy Ritchie, who scored 82 goals for the club between 1987 and 1995.
Praise though for Scholes has come from some of the greatest names in world football. Modern day legend and general footballing genius Zinedine Zidane thought Scholes was his toughest ever opponent, “My toughest opponent? Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder. Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation.” Adulation from three-times Fifa World Player of the Year must be well received by Scholes.
His accolades speak volumes, 8 EPL titles, 3 F.A Cups, and 2 Champions League Trophies, as well as a plethora of minor winners medals. Even though he never played in the 1999 Champions League final, his contribution was immense in reaching that stage, most notably an away goal against Inter in Milan. With all these achievements he has never won an individual award such as PFA player of the year, but I feel even if he did, he would be embarrassed to accept it.
In a career that has spanned 15 years, so far, 602 appearances for the Red Devils and 142 goals, I will leave the final words to two Manchester United stalwarts, former club captain and current director Sir 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.” In addition to current boss Sir Alex Ferguson, “In my time he would sit in the top six or seven United players without question.”
Paul Scholes is not just a legend of Manchester but also a legend of the game itself.