Friday, 5 August 2011

Farewell Ginger Prince

The great, so far taciturn, Paul Scholes played his last game - his benefit match - against the New York Cosmos tonight. The result (6-0 to United) doesn't matter in the least but the first goal - and what a goal! - was scored by the man himself. I'll put it up here once I get it.

Scholes is one of the most unusual figures in modern football. Shy to the point of being self-erasing, he hated any fuss and made no public statements. He was one of that young batch of players along with Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Lee Sharpe, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, (who had already made his first appearance at the age of sixteen two years before) about whom Alan Hansen remarked 'You'll not win anything with kids.' They won the Double that year.

Scholes was not only the quietest but the subtlest of the group. Everyone could see what the others were good at from the start: Giggs, a genius joyful winger; Beckham, a master of the long pass and dead ball; Lee Sharpe, a flash, talented, but more brittle version of Giggs; Nicky Butt a tough intelligent midfield grafter; and the two Nevilles, fierce, solid international backs capable of thinking and attacking, full of great drive.

But what exactly was Scholes brilliant at? The trouble was it wasn't any one thing but everything. He has been called one of greatest players of the last thirty years in the world by everyone from Zidane to Xavi. His tackling could be terrible. Arsene Wenger spoke of the dark side of Paul Scholes. The more general opinion is that he just couldn't time a tackle so simply flew in trying to get something. The rest was, quietly, out of this world.

Giggs is still there, amazingly enough. But Ginger Prince Scholes has moved on with the briefest of words. Those passes in the compilation can speak for him.

Yesterday night. The game's first, his last.

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