Before we start discussing this United legend and his future at the club, let’s get talk of that magnificent milestone out of the way, as only a typically limelight loathing Paul Scholes would want us to do. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you but Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Portsmouth signalled Scholes’ 600th appearance in a Manchester United shirt. For once in your career Paul, take a thoroughly deserved bow.
When you weigh it up, it really is a monumental achievement. With the days of the one club man now looking decidedly bleak, Scholes may well be the last of a dying breed as he joins Ryan Giggs, Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes to become only the fourth player in United history to reach 600.
Although has anyone else around here been noticing more than just discreet murmurs of discontent surrounding Scholes and his future at United? Judging by his Twitter account, Mr Red Ranter himself wants shot of him come the end of the current campaign. I mean is this really how we treat our legends of the club or is it simply an unwritten rule that when you get to your mid-thirties, you just can’t cut the mustard at Old Trafford anymore? Fergie undoubtedly still believes that our one-time midfield maestro can continue to roll back the years and although I’m not completely convinced, I’m sure he can still do some sort of job.
It was proof in the pudding the other night that, when afforded the time and space, there aren’t many better midfielders in world football that can effortlessly spray around passes, long or short. The ball through for Carrick to create the second goal against Pompey was both splendid but hardly surprising as we all know just what the former England man is capable of doing with a football. Zidane called Scholes his toughest opponent, Marcello Lippi would’ve built a team around him and Thierry Henry once labelled the Salford-born star as the best player in the Premiership. You can’t argue with that kind of praise.
So why exactly does the jury seem to be out on Scholes, despite his unprecedented devotion and loyalty to the club and his clear ability to still be able to affect a game? Our number 18 certainly won’t get box to box quite like he used to, his legs won’t allow him to start every game even if his head tells him otherwise and he probably won’t score any more than five goals in a season. With Anderson growing in stature with every game, Fletcher developing into a rather valuable first-team member and lest we forget Carrick, Hargreaves and even Giggs who has proved he can be a central figure, Sir Alex has something of a predicament that’s for sure.
Well what would you do? Scholes isn’t a fool and he knows that at 34-years-old and with competition for places at Old Trafford rife, time is running out on his United career. Everyone makes mistakes (I’m talking Craven Cottage ofcourse) and to be fair, this product of our Golden Generation doesn’t make too many. Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher, Hargreaves, even Gibson at a push. They literally roll off the tongue and they all offer something different but are they really streets ahead of the newest member of the 600 club?
Let’s face it, goals like what we witnessed against Barcelona last season will ensure Scholes remains at the club until his contract expires next summer at least and I can’t say I’m gutted about it. I say use him sparingly at Old Trafford and keep him in and around the squad, he deserves that for his unfathomable devotion to Manchester United for starters. Unlike someone of Gary Neville’s persona, the beauty of possessing Paul Scholes is that he will cease to fight a losing battle and I am sure that when the time is right, he’ll know exactly when to call it a day. Surplus or invaluable, opinions will vary, but will the curtain curtail as early as next month? Surely not!