There are certain events in all walks of life that leave such a profound impact on our lives and impel individuals to see things in a different perspective. This occurrence resonates with nearly everyone on earth and if you consider this as foreign territory, you should leave your little cocoon for exploration purposes. I consider Jan. 30, 2008 as one of those days.
Now, if you Googled that date, it’s very likely you’re assuming that my topic is about one of the famous celebrities who share that birthday (Kid Cudi,Tom Izzo, Dimitar Berbatov, Christian Bale, Jalen Rose etc.), or maybe the historic events that took place on that day like Peter Leko becoming the world’s youngest ever grand master in chess. If you are nescience of the people I brought up above, then it’s quite possible Jan. 30 is trivial to you. However, if any of you support Manchester United, it’s likely you witnessed an unbelievable individual effort by one of the best players of our generation, Paul Scholes
Portsmouth was not expected to muster up enough of a challenge to frighten United and the game was effectively over by the end of the first half, in part because of two Cristiano Ronaldo goals. He deservingly grabbed the headlines with his brace, one goal an exquisite free-kick that was in back of the net before David James could even react, but the play of Scholes was mesmerizing and I simply could not stop thinking about it. Rio Ferdinand was asked about his man of the match and he quickly answered the question with ease, “Paul Scholes.” Ferdinand spoke with such conviction and then joked that Scholes is probably already on his way home, as he was nowhere to be found for the postgame interviews. I was hoping the fellow United supporters would share the same sentiment, but Ronaldo’s two-goal performance was grabbing the headlines.
Sometimes, with certain midfielders you have to focus a bit more deeply to evaluate their worth. Xavi is a perfect example, as for years he was often overlooked in the “best midfielder” debates for the rough-bustling-scoring midfielders like Steven Gerrard. Fans want to be entertained. It’s like the Nirvana effect – Here we are now, entertain us. Scholes moved further down the field as he got older, where he eventually settled as deep-lying playmaker, and that also meant he was susceptible to what I consider as the “Xavi effect.”
Now, back to the game. Scholes’ long-awaited return from injury finally came against Portsmouth. He only played 62 minutes, but it was a mesmerizing 62 minutes filled with a display consisting of jaw-dropping passes and precise technique that seemed so effortless, even during moments of intense pressure. His passing percentage was 97 percent. Xavi occasionally achieves that same mark, but anyone who has witnessed the play of both players would agree the degree of difficulty regarding Scholes’ passing is much higher. There were instances where the Portsmouth players found the courage to pressure Scholes, but were left stupefied by his feints, which then propelled the Portsmouth midfielders to simply contain him from afar.
Time after time he would produce a pinpoint pass, which would leave me flabbergasted and longing for more up until the point he was withdrawn from the match. The fans gave him a deserved standing ovation as he walked to the bench and I was confident that I just witnessed one of the best performances from a midfielder in the Premier League.
Watching Manchester United this year as a fan has been difficult. We clearly need a center-midfielder and that reality has quite often triggered an urge to by myself a plane ticket to Manchester with the hopes of finding Scholes, and then I disregarding my pride by embarrassingly beseeching him to return. If anyone questions his current fitness, I encourage them to watch this goal from half in a recent pub match; I know he was playing against guys probably use walking sticks day-by-day, but his technique is still unblemished.
My admiration for Scholes does not mean I consider him to be perfect. His tackling has nearly always been erratic or even outright malicious, and his numerous amount reds cards have cost us at times, but the importance of having Scholes in the lineup cannot be understated. He changes the course of the match unlike any other Manchester United midfielder and is worthy of discussion amongst the greatest midfielders of our generation.