Monday, July 18, 2011

Thank you for the memories, Scholesy.

In 2008 while Manchester United, the defending Premier League champions were on course to their third Premier League victory on the trot, Sir Alex Ferguson set his eyes firmly on winning the Champions League that year. However, FC Barcelona was to be tackled in the semi final which boasted of players like Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. The winner of the semi final was supposed to set up a dream clash with either Liverpool or Chelsea. United’s hopes were slightly dented as Wayne Rooney was side lined due to hip injury, but in his absence their best player stood up and delivered. It was none other than the one whom Xavi Hernandez recently designated the best midfielder for the last 20 years - Paul Scholes. In the 14th minute of the match, Cristiano Ronaldo lost the ball when tackled by Gianluca Zambrotta, who in turn lost it to Paul Scholes about 25 yards from the goal post. This was a perfect position for him, who thrived on it and rightly put the ball into the top right corner away from Victor Valdes, the Barcelona goalkeeper who was left contemplating the scene.

Paul Scholes affectionately called The Ginger Prince, born in Salford, Great Manchester, England excelled in both Cricket and Football before eventually choosing Football. In the year 1992, he signed a contract with Manchester United. At the start of his career he played as a support striker, and later on was pushed further back from where he literally has been pulling the strings of Manchester United mid field for more than a decade and setting up goals for the forwards. The important quality of this one-club player was his ability to score goals from the minutest possible scoring opportunities around him. He not only had pace, power, control and cunningness but also possessed deep technical knowledge of the game. The United defense blessed by the ethereal presence of the legend now looks pathetically inadequate after his retirement. He was unlike a Ronaldo who would carry the ball away from a pack of defenders and score big goals, but in spite of that continuously kept posing questions in the mid-field which made him unique in his own way. His guile earned him a place in the England squad in 1997 and he made his world cup debut in 1998. He was however fed up in his wide left role in the England team and retired in 2004. At United however, the lethal understanding he developed with Roy Keane and the partnership he forged with Beckham and Giggs took United to unfathomable horizons in the Premier League.

In Champions League 2011, the United fans wanted him to repeat his performance against Barcelona in 2008, it was not to be. Barcelona eventually won 3-1. Post match he handed over his shirt to Iniesta, disappointing players like Messi and Xavi when they were told that the shirt was already taken over. This loyal player finally hung his boots only a couple of days after the loss to Barcelona in a low key manner. He signed off with an incredible 676 matches of United under his belt. Away from the spotlight in a typical way he played football, the player announced with finality that he would be a part of Manchester United Football club not as a player but as one of the coaches. Summing up this game of this great English player in the words of Barcelona’s Xavi, “He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.”

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