Paul Scholes was undoubtedly a magician if you know your football. He had everything you would want from a midfielder, from an impressive goalscoring return to his incredible range of passing. His technical ability far exceeded most of his peers in his position, making difficult situations look easy as a result. In the latter period of his career, we probably saw this even more, with Fergie asking him to dictate the tempo from deep when he was deployed, which gave him free reign to stamp his magic on proceedings. Michael Carrick was a perfect foil for Scholes, with Carrick’s own ability to dictate play allowed Scholes to have plenty of time on the ball as a result.
My favourite memory of Paul Scholes is his remarkable 30-yard screamer in a tightly contested second leg at Old Trafford against Barcelona in the 07/08 season to book our way to our eventual triumph in Moscow. It was a peach of a goal, a beauty. Beyond that, it showed that someone at his age could still influence one of the biggest games in world football at the time with a show of majestic beauty and skill.
On the subject of goals, many when comparing the careers of England’s greatest midfielders fail to appreciate the goalscoring ability of Scholes. He scored 107 Premier League goals, none of which included penalties. Yes, in his early career he played higher up the pitch at times, but still this is an impressive record for someone not typically in the discussion of great goalscoring midfielders. And this is before you even take into account what he could bring to the side in terms of technical ability and aptitude to control the course of a game through his crisp, varied passing.
Saturday marked our former number 18’s 45th birthday, and still this technical ability shines through when he makes the odd charity or all-star appearance. But in serious matters, many of his peers and those who work in football were also mesmerised by Scholes’ talent like most of us fans are. Cristiano Ronaldo’s anecdote is my favourite about our magician, as he said that during training he was unsurprisingly showboating to Scholes, and then Scholes in response hit a tree fifty metres away bang on at the first attempt. His precision was just sensational. One of a kind.
How we could do with a player who could do quarter of what Scholes did best in this current squad. It would be a special day indeed, as special as the man himself.