A couple of years ago, the very thought of Paul Scholes retiring left me feeling physically ill. It was all too apparent how vital he was to our team, and after struggling to win the league, the idea of him leaving us was terrifying. We already weren’t good enough, so what were we going to do without Scholes?
For the second half of the 2005-2006 season, Scholes was ruled out because of ‘blurred vision,’ and we were forced to look at a dim vision of the future. Our best central midfield pairing during this time was Ryan Giggs and John O’Shea, and whilst they were more competent than the likes of Alan Smith or Kieran Richardson, who’d had a stint in the middle, we were miles short of the standards Chelsea were setting at the time.
However, Scholes returned for the final game of that season as we beat Charlton 4-0, and played as though he hadn’t missed any time at all. Still, the problem of replacing him was ever-present and now we are one or two seasons away from saying our goodbyes. Are we ready?
“How long will I go on? I’d think two years at the most,” said Scholes, in a rare interview. “I have one year left on my contract and hopefully I’ll get another one but I suppose it all depends on how you’re feeling and how you’re playing. At the moment I just think two years would be about right.”
Another two seasons will see Paul Scholes at 35-years-old, which sounds incredibly old for a top flight footballer – particularly at a club flying high like United – however, for a player who has taken such good care of himself, it’s not out of the question.
Of course, Scholes won’t be at the heart of our team in a couple of years time. That responsibility will be shared out between Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson. However, Scholes will be there to provide us with that touch of class, experience and composure when it is needed.
The most incredible thing about Scholes, aside from his ridiculously accurate passing and absolutely blinding goals, is his ability to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground. He has been praised by some of the best, he’s won a ridiculous amount of trophies, yet is far happier to shy away from the media than soak up the limelight.
“England have lost their best player,” said George Best of Paul Scholes after he decided to retire from International football. “He would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team,” said Marcello Lippi. Zinedine Zidane once claimed it wasn’t himself but Scholes who was the best midfielder of their time.
Scholes has been there and done it all, winning eight league titles, the European Cup, three FA Cups and a League Cup.
But you’d never know it would you?
“I can’t say that I can’t wait to finish but I am looking forward to finishing with everything that goes with it,” Scholes added. “I suppose people are just very invasive and are always wanting to know what you’re going to do. The only thing I will definitely miss is the football, not the general life of a footballer.”
That just sums Scholes up. In a day and age where footballers change clubs like their underpants, striving for more money, more exposure and more praise, Scholesy will just settle with playing the game.
I remember distinctly a piece of commentary describing our midfielder during our 3-2 victory over AC Milan the season before last. He played a beautiful ball through for Rooney to score, flicking the ball over the heads of the Italian defence, leaving Wayne to just tap it in to the back of the net.
“That’s just a natural footballer at work… You always feel like Paul Scholes plays the game now like he probably did when he was 12 or 13-year-old in the backstreets of Salford and Oldham.”
Scott writes at the Republik of Mancunia blog.