Ode to a Prince

The Dutch appreciate space more than any other, centuries of foraging for their own has given them an undeniable sense and acute awareness of space and how best to utilize it. In his tremendous book “Brilliant orange” David Winner marks space as the unique defining element of Dutch football. Flexible space was the mantra of one of the greatest club sides ever seen, the hypnotic rhythm of Ajax led by Cruyff et al passed and moved their way to three consecutive European cups, and as one casts their eyes over the current European champions it is that same special awareness that is the hallmark of a ginger beacon that has shone at old trafford for more than a decade.

There is something magnetic about watching Paul Scholes kill a football with his in-step, move away from the plodder hunting him and then play a simple pass which will inevitably roll onto a team-mates foot. “Fantasti” or the controller is what the Italians used to describe Gianni Rivera; Maestro is the only apt word to describe Scholes. A player so horribly under-appreciated by some of fleet streets finest that it verges on criminal, He has been the finest midfield player in England in the past fifteen years yet he has no individual awards to show for it. No matter, he has delivered moments of mesmerising motion that will live long in the memory, three of which best sum him up.

There have been so many seminal Scholes moments, many involving the perfected volleying technique so devastatingly shown against Bradford and more recently Aston Villa yet the three do not involve goal scoring, strange as that may seem given his penchant for the spectacular. The argument for Scholes being an all time great is based more on his peripheral vision then say that arching arrow which broke Catalan hearts. The first is the most recent and is the most simple in both its premise and execution. Wes Brown is taking a throw-in twenty metres in the Chelsea half in the 2008 Champions league final, He throws it to Scholes who is being heavily marked, Scholes nonchantly flicks back to Brown who returns the favour. Scholes is now backed in with Brown on the move. Any other would have controlled tried to turn and win another throw-in, this is not any other, Scholes darts a flick between two Chelsea players to send Brown into an acre of Dutch heaven, the rest is history. It is a moment already forgotten by most yet this simple flick could only be executed by Scholes. It was understated, almost modest yet it was compelling.

The second moment is again from this year Champions League, this time in the hostile environment of the Olimpico in Rome. Scholes finds himself on the left-hand side of Roma’s penalty area, he and every other united player is surrounded by the suffocating Italians, Scholes clips a cross over the penalty spot to no-one in particular or so it seems, Cristiano Ronaldo arrives like a steam train to shudder an unstoppable header past the goalkeeper. Ronaldo’s header is heroic but his superman act would never have taken off without the perfect human launch pad.

If there is one moment to encapsulate the celebration of pure technique that is Paul Scholes then it was surely conceived in the mammoth Champions league semi-final tie in April 2007 between United and A.C Milan, Losing 1-2 to the Kaka inspired giants, United were on the ropes. Cue the ginger prince, picking the ball up just outside Milan’s box the options seemed bare, until one swish of a right boot scooped a delicious lob over the hapless Nesta and onto the onrushing Rooney’s chest; the rest as always was simple, because the little man makes it so.

Submitted by: Paul Ring.

This is a submission for the Red Rants Writing competition. To take part, click here.

78 Comments

  1. If tomorrows press is to be believed, Tevez and his agent are living in cloud cuckoo land. He wants £125,000 a week, £5000 – £10,000 more than Ronnie and Rooney. They also want the 32 million transfer fee they sought when he first came on loan. Apparently United have already payed 6 million of this, but the hierarchy at United do not feel Tevez is worth the other 26 million, They certainly will not pay anywhere near £125,000 weekly for him. Now I completely agree with the board on this. Fergie is saying, if he goes he goes, we will move on, so it is not looking good. On the otherhand, what other club apart from Man Slippy will offer that sort of money. Greedy gits – let him go I say.

  2. @Craig Mc: I have read that and it genuinly surprised me. It appears that the fee isn’t considered to be a problem which is what I always thought the sticking point would be with this one. I never thought wages would end being the issue with Tevez.

  3. ALEX FERGUSON has accused the Premier League of fixing the fixture list against Manchester United.

    His claim comes after a first half to the campaign in which United played all the eight teams who finished directly below them last season away from home.

    The Reds are seven points off top spot but have two games in hand.

    And Fergie, 67, said: “Our fixture programme didn’t do us any favours.

    “We’ve been handicapped by the Premier League in the fixture list.

    “They tell me it’s not planned. Bloody hell!”

    Ferguson was asked if he really believed the Premier League would set out to hamper United.

    He replied: “I’ve got my doubts. I’m not saying what they do down there but we will send somebody next year to see how it happens.”

    Ferguson’s astonishing claims have stunned the Premier League.

    A Premier League spokesman said: “Our fixtures are put together through as random a process as possible. The overriding factor is the luck of the draw.”

    It’s funny because I seem to recall that I was one of the few and certainly the loudest critics of this year’s fixture list on this blog. I could not understand why others weren’t as upset as I was and now, finally after half a season has passed, Fergie twists off about it and says they will make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. Too little too late I’m afraid

  4. @JB: You read that the Fee wasn’t a problem Jb, mmmmmmm – in some papers it is reporting that United are baulking at the fee, that they do not feel Tev warrants that price tag anymore. I do not think United want to pay 26 million, and to be honest Jb I really don’t think Tev is worth that really. We can buy so much better with that 26 million. I can in no way think he is anywhere near worth £250,000 weekly wages either. Good grief, those Dick Turpin agents of his are out of their minds in this credit crunch times 🙄 .

  5. @Grognard: Grog there’s nothing devious going on mate, not going by the present system the PL use for fixture listings. Perhaps the way the system functions needs to be looked at, and another way found more satisfactory to everyone with interest involved in it. 😀 .

  6. RE: Park & Neville

    I would keep the dog-eating Energizer bunny as he has proven to be an extremely versatile squad player who I believe on occasions (at PSV I think it was) can even play as a DM and at full-back when required to do so. IIRC, Fergie had him watched for a year before signing him. He’s also scored against teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and AC Milan before so it’s not like he’s a big game bottler or anything (forgot to mention the Barca 2nd leg last year too). He’s good enough to play for Man Utd, just not as a first team regular . He’d get into most starting XI’s outside of the Big4 for sure though.

    I’m not sure about Red Nev on the other hand. He’s not the same player as he was pre-injury, as most people have correctly pointed out, but I would be very sad to see the back of him. Perhaps United could offer him a rolling one year contract as a player-coach, as I can definitely see Nev as management material in the future. Nevertheless, as a great and loyal servant of Man Utd I wish him the very best of luck whatever he chooses to do.

  7. @JB: Too right. Park may be ‘useless’ in front of goal, but tell me this: at this moment in time, are Rooney, Berbatov, Tevez et al any better in front of goal???

  8. @Nino: Park is a decent goalscorer. He gets into positions that are great and if he can develop a bit more composure would be a very good attacking player. Our whole team have scored 4 goals in the last 6 games and people are blaming Park, a winger for this. His runs open up space for other players as well which we have lacked since Berbatov replaced Tevez. Maybe we shouldn’t be looking at why he can’t score but why there’s no striker in the box to pass to that he has to shoot so much

  9. Thanks for a great write up. Paul is one of my favorite players of all time. Everything about that man is understated. Simply inspiring.

  10. @Craig Mc: That is shit!!! 😡 Of all players we have, like Ronaldo, Rooney, Nani, Evra and Carrick, Tevez was the one I least expected to demand more money. He is not a starter, and I am already pissed over having a £30 million striker on the bench. Reminds me of Shitty and Chelski! We are not like that. What happend with the days when we had Smith(£7 million), Saha(£12 million) or Solskjaer(£3 million) on the bench. Now we have 3 strikers with the combined fee of £90 million! £90 MILLION!!! You know how much that is? We could buy the whole of Luxemburg for just 1/4 of that! 😆 If Tevez really is worth £32 million, and demands £125,000 a week, then I think we are better off him. I would pay to play for United, this guy wants more salary than God does himself. Its madness! If these reports are true, I think it is wiser of us to let go of Tevez and thank him for all he has done. He has been marvellous, and I am really thankful for what he did for us, but if he really is gonna be such a cheao bastard, then sell him to Shitty or Chelski where he can earn £500,000 a week without winning anything. Campbell and Welbeck better be good…

  11. Looks like Tevez may leave… 🙁 Wonder what this will do with s during the summer and the future. Will we opt for Campbell and Welbeck or Benzema and Michael Owen? Will Benzema finalize his move here, will Ronaldo become a striker, which team will Tevez join and when??? I dont want him to leave, I love his passion and his face after he score against Blackburn last season is something I will never forget(although I want to, it was scary! 😆 ). But he is too good to sit on the bench, and we all know Fergie likes to play Rooney and Berbs more. Difficult problem.

  12. if we are going to keep tevez it needs to be finalized in THIS month. There is a rule saying a player can talk to other clubs about possible transfer, if there is 5 or less months left on the players contract.

  13. @dan(u-ol): Aguero, Benzema, David Villa or 5 Michael Owens.

    I like Aguero, his style of play is unik! He his like a goalscoring Ronaldo, only doesnt use stepovers so much. Neither is he as good at heading. He is fast, can use both feet, deadly in all kinds of finishing(long range, fox-in-the-box, left foot, right foot, volly, heading, overhead kick), high aggresion levels and a player for the big games. He has everything that Tevez has got, only more speed and better finishing.

    But then we have Bezema, who is the ultimate striker. If he could perform at the level he plays in France in CL or in teh French team he should be in the top 10 strikers in the world. But he aint. He aint worth £30 million. Last time I heard anything about Benzema, it was that Lyon would be willing to let him go for £20 million in the summer, with clausules about the trophies they win with him and such as an extra, to a total fee of £25-27. I think that would be a good deal! French striker have an act for doing well in the Prem(Henry, Saha, Anelka) more often than not. I would like to see im next to Rooney or Berbs, but the question with Benzema is not if we want him or can afford him. The question is wether he can take playing 15+ games coming off the bench.

  14. Just watching Berbas goals for us, and I noticed they were all with the right foot on his first touch. Aalborg: Volley and scissor kick. West Brom: First touch finish from Nani cross. Celtic: Rebound and flickin pass from Oshea between Boruc legs. Stoke: Goes up, he hits it when its about to fall down. Boro: Kung-Fu kick! Hiya!!! 😆

  15. @RedDevilEddy: It is shit Eddy mi man, but it is the TRUTH shit 😆 . Fergie and the United board do not feel Tevez is worth that kind of money, another 26 million fee, and £125,000 a week – no chance. Also most Man Utd fans I speak too agree with Fergie and the board. Only the Arab owners will pay his 26 million and his weekly wage demands. Let him go, we CAN replace him.

  16. @Craig Mc: We are not Shitty or Chelski! We dont have £30 million players on the bench. Maybe £20 million or something around that, but that is the prize of succes. 30 million is just too much, for any player I believe. Except for players like Ronaldo, Kaka and Messi, they are up there in the £50 and £60 million. Tevez is not worth that amount of manoey, and he should not get a salary. I would rather have Frazier Campbell on the bench than a £32 million striker, no matter how good he may be. That is of cource for the long season, most games, but of cource every striker needs a rest sometimes. I just dont want players that matter so much to the club and bring so much happiness leave. But we all have our own worth. What agents can do to ya?! 🙄 If the rumours are true and Benzema really is to buy for 20 million, I would gladly take him. Aguero for that matter too! Becuase they are both 20, Tevez is 24, turns 25 next month. Hey, maybe Fergie plans a contract as a birthday present! 😛 But honestly, when Benzi or Kun is Tevez age Carlito will be 29. So… I think we should move on if Tevez really demands that kind of money. Bring back Campbell, or buy Benzema or Aguero and we will probably be fine.

  17. @Craig Mc: exactly, welbeck and campbell deserve a shot at the PL welbeck has already shown what he can do. i think campbell has proven to a lot of people what i have known for a while, hes a goalscorer. but hes the type of player that needs a run in the team to get goals.

  18. £32m for a striker who has openly stated that he will leave us when he reaches his playing peak to go back and play for his boyhood club? Much as I love Red Tev (and I really do love the guy), it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

  19. Yeah Ferguson has the right attitude. We should not be held to ransom by these guys. None of the other clubs (with the exception of City) would pay more than 20 million for Tevez so why should we?

    We have Berbatov, Rooney, Campbell and Welbeck and I also believe we’d have the option of buying back Rossi for half the price of Tevez and have spare change to buy another creative midfielder.

  20. @Grognard: If we had the hardest fixture list thus far it just means we will have the easiest fixtures until the end of the season. As ferguson loves to say… “what goes around comes around” (although he was talking about the referees’ questionable decisions in the last couple seasons). 😉

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