Scholes' last game
His retirement leaves a massive void in United's central mid-field. The Premier League will never be the same.
The earliest football match that I can remember with crystal clarity was almost ten years ago. It was Manchester United vs Everton at Old Trafford. United won the game 3-0. But what made that trivial encounter a monumental memory, was a ferocious Paul Scholes's injury time strike from 20 yards into the top corner of a diving Richard Wright's goal.
On the basis of this little football watching experience I expected him to take a crazy round of the whole stadium or may be take his shirt off and jump into the crowd. And yes, he had the all the right in the world to do that. After all, he had just scored a goal that was better than those self scripted dream goals of millions of wannabe footballers around the world.
But he didn't do such thing.
He just made a casual little stroll towards the stand, raised his right hand in the air to acknowledge the applauding fans and hugged his team mates. Nothing fancy. Nothing extravagant. Sheer grace!
Yesterday in Paul Scholes' testimonial game, when I saw him belting one from just outside the box into the top corner of the net, something inside me got reinvigorated. It brought back memories of the very first time I saw him doing it back in 2002. Now, almost ten years on, his strike had the same ruthlessness, his vision had the same exactitude, his celebration had the same dexterity. That pretty much sums up the man. The humongous sums of money, the silverware over the years, the enthralling label of being a football superstar has not changed him. He's still that same old Ginger Prince whose obstinate persona on the pitch is as compelling as his virtuous shyness off the field.
For me Paul Scholes will remain the greatest servant of this legendary game called football. From his nimble footwork and accurate passes to his brutal strikes from outside the box - there's a grace about everything he does. Tackling was never the strongest part of his game though, ask Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Busquets or Marouane Chamakh if you have any doubts.
For years he put us in awe of his artistry on the field and won millions of admirers around the globe. Zinedine Zidane called him his toughest opponent. Thierry Henry acknowledged him as the best in the Premiership. Barcelona's midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez hailed Scholes as the "the best midfield player of the last 20 years". Italian world cup winning manager Marcello Lippi once stated that Paul Scholes would have been one of his first choices for putting together a great team. Another Catalan star Cesc Fabregas considered him his role model. The list goes on and on.
He played his last game in United colors yesterday. His retirement leaves a massive void in United's central mid-field. His faultless passes, his immaculate composure, his chaotic tackles, his malevolent thunderbolts from 20 yards, just the sheer presence of a 'Paul Scholes' in the central mid-field - United are going to miss him severely. The Theater of Dreams will never be the same. The Premier League will never be the same. The game will never be the same..