Scholes' reign continues

By scoring the winner against Manchester City in a crucial EPL fixture, Paul Scholes of Man United gave his manager Alex Ferguson immediate vindication that such experience is truly priceless. By Alex Terrell.

While Manchester United may have lost a little of their verve and inventiveness since Cristiano Ronaldo swapped life at Old Trafford for that of the Bernabeu, they certainly have not lost any of their experience or an unerring will to win. Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Edwin van der Sar and Paul Scholes all sit the wrong side of 35, but they have all played their part in the pursuit of a fourth successive Barclays English Premier League title and none more so than in the dying seconds of the recent Manchester derby.

United's hopes were kept alive when Scholes used all of his know-how and foresight to be in the right place at the right time to nod home a 94th minute winner to secure a 1-0 win at the home of their rivals and keep Chelsea in sight at the pinnacle of the table.

Less than 24 hours before this, the 35-year-old midfielder had signed a further one-year contract extension. And by scoring the decisive goal against City (on April 17) Scholes gave his manager, Alex Ferguson, immediate vindication that such experience is truly priceless.

It was the kind of goal that defines a season, and no player was more deserving than Scholes.

“He was man of the match,” declared his manager after the final whistle. “He was wonderful, he's such a skilful player.”

Such impeccable timing has always been a key facet of the Salford-born star ever since his debut, coming as it did against Port Vale back in the 1994/95 season. United finished second that year as Scholes contributed seven goals, but the ‘ginger prince' did not have to wait too long to claim his piece of major silverware as the team of kids defied the odds to lift the EPL title the following year.

Fourteen goals from midfield during that title-winning campaign set a tough benchmark to follow, but the two-time UEFA Champions League winner has lived up to his early billing in his subsequent years, picking up nine EPL titles and three FA Cups as his reward.

In 1997, Scholes made his England debut against South Africa at Wembley and scored his first senior goal in a superb performance against Italy in Nantes soon after, while the following season he proved a crucial catalyst in United's treble-winning campaign of 1999.

Scholes scored important goals, such as the first goal in United's comeback against Liverpool in the FA Cup, a crucial equaliser at the San Siro against Inter Milan and the second goal in the FA Cup final at Wembley. However, the season was tarnished as Scholes was suspended for the Champions League final when United famously turned Bayern Munich upside down in stoppage time. It was another instance of an occasional lack of discipline that has blighted his otherwise exemplary career.

Capped 66 times for England, Scholes was the first player from his country to be sent off at Wembley. He was also sent off at Anfield in 2007 for swinging an arm at Xabi Alonso. It is not often malice that has got Scholes booked or sent off. Unlike his goal-scoring, his timing of tackles has too often been an instant behind the play.

However, Ferguson has evidently accepted that for a bit of bite in midfield, he can live with the odd booking or so and his lenience has been rewarded with goals — and lots of them as Scholes has reached double figures in eight of his 16 seasons at Old Trafford.

Internationally, his career came to a self-imposed end in 2004 with an early retirement from the England set-up. He cited family and loyalty to United as his main reasons.

Steve McClaren apparently tried to tempt the popular player out of the shadows in 2007, but Scholes typically stuck to his guns.

Uncharacteristically, the resolute midfielder had a rare moment of indecisiveness against City recently. It was in the seconds after his goal, where he seemed to drop his shoulder to run back to the bench to celebrate, but instead Scholes plotted the arduous route, treading over microphones and netting behind the goal to celebrate with the United fans with whom he is intrinsically linked.

It was a typically wise decision from a player who is seen as one of the people, rather than just another footballer. Scholes is married to his childhood sweetheart Claire Froggatt.

He drives a black Audi S8, with room for his three children, who he picks up from school.

FACTFILE Name: Paul Scholes Position: Midfielder Club: Manchester United D.O.B: 16/11/74 England Caps: 66 England Goals: 14 England Debut: v South Africa 1997 Moment to remember

The semifinal clincher against Barcelona capped a rocking European evening at Old Trafford during the 2007/08 season and exorcised the demons of the yellow card at Juventus in 1999.

Moment to forget

Becoming the first England player to receive a red card at Wembley after two yellowcards against Sweden in 1999.

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