The moment it emerged that the midfielder was having doubts about signing a new deal, had a testimonial lined up and was releasing an autobiography a picture began to emerge that one of the finest players of his era was set to hang up his boots.
For a player that shuns the spotlight, Paul Scholes has found himself in it’s glare more than usual for both good and bad reasons.
At the start of the season Paul Scholes was our star player, cast your mind back to our early performances where he was employed in the ‘quarterback’ role. He put Chelsea to the sword in the Community Shield raking the field with his exploratory passes and there was talk of him rolling back the years.
He was doing just that, outclassing players who were his junior by a considerable difference but as they say ‘all good things must come to an end’ and Scholes’ purple patch did as injury knocked him out of his swing. He would return and have bright spots yet nothing like the brillance of his early season performances.
But it wasn’t just injuries that slowed down Scholes this season.
Carrington is a marvellous training complex and has a plethora of top of the range equipment and minds working on our player’s wellbeing but as of this moment I am unaware of a process to reverse aging.
Father Time had simply caught up with another of Fergie’s Fledglings.
Talk of Scholes not having the legs for the job became more and more frequent with his performances and the result of this became more and more apparent.
Scholes has never been the best tackler, it was part of the reason we love him. A player so gifted in every other aspect of the game was so bad at tackling. Despite this the cheeky grin he would flash after a mistimed challenge kind of smoothed over any conceived idea that these challenges were done on purpose (that’s not to say they were always innocent!)
The biggest incident this season came in the FA Cup semi final when his mistimed challenge on Man City’s Pablo Zabaleta earned him a red card as United crashed out of the competition. Although the challenge was, in my estimation, innocent as he attempted to win the ball, a picture was painted that a frustrated Scholes, a Scholes off the pace of the game allowed his feelings to get the better of him and kicked out at the defender.
The aftermath was ridiculous, people including a number of respected journalists called for his retirement before he ruined his legacy. I wrote a piece in response to these pathetic cries and although he has chosen to hang up his boots I stand by my assertion that he could have played on, in some capacity, comfortably.
There are tons of players who have paid remarkable tributes to Scholes and I’m pretty sure more will flood in over the next few days and rightfully so.
A player who has won 10 Premier Leagues, 1 European cup and FA Cup can’t be that bad at all. In Scholes’ case it not about him being that bad rather about how good he was beacuse as I said earlier, despite his tackling he was a footballing genius.
Rio Ferdinand nicknamed him ‘Sat Nav’ for his ability to find a player on the field and before Obama’s Navy Seals found him, people joked that a Scholes pass could have easily found Osama Bin Laden. His reinvention from a goal scoring midfielder to a midfield schemer, pulling the strings like a master puppeteer, shows just how much he had in his locker and it is because of this reinvention that I feel he could have carried on. His awareness, vision, anticipation, touch and ability to pick and play a pass in this new role have not dulled.
Perhaps with a different partner in the middle of the park, one who would offer him better protection he would be able to continue operating as our ‘quarterback’ but these are ifs and buts, he made his decision and as Sir Bobby Charlton stated he is strong minded to the extent that once he was certain, there would be no reversal.
This season at least in the early parts, Scholes gave us further memories to add to our already huge collection that exists of him but it was in March against Arsenal that birthed one of my favourite Scholes memories.
Again making a cameo, he came on and instantly found himself in trouble after some of his tackles went awry. There was even a perfect picture moment as in a lull in the action (following a Scholes challenge!) he and his heir apparent Jack Wilshere shared a joke, laughing together.
Samir Nasri was particularly incensed and in all honesty Scholes could have seen red in that game but for me any lingering thoughts of his negative contributions to the game were erased with one pass.
On the volley from beyond the center circle, Scholes dropped a perfect ball into Wayne Rooney’s path who controlled it then found Javier Hernandez who unfortunately fired his shot at Almunia. Controlled, measured and hit deftly enough to land in Rooney’s path it was for me an example of Scholes’ excellence.
There are probably other moments of instinctive brilliance from Scholes that have been lost in history and if this one had resulted in a goal, you probably wouldn’t have to search it to refresh your memory (don’t worry I have provided a link here) as it would be an essential part of any Scholes highlight like the goals against Bradford, Barcelona, Boro and Villa.
Scholes retirement is a notable moment in United’s history as another of our greats hangs up his boots. The fact he has decided to stay on in a coaching role makes it easier to accept though as I hold hope, admittedly fleeting, that he could play a part in cultivating a player with just some of his ability.
I did say fleeting though.