Ode to a Prince

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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.


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