Still an asset

Paul Scholes’ game is built on dynamism, superb vision and a fine passing ability. He also has a reputation as a powerful finisher and has scored many spectacular goals, often volleys, throughout his career, writes Andy Hampson.

Paul Scholes is a hugely experienced and vastly influential member of the Manchester United side, one of the key components in the club’s sustained dominance of English football since the mid-1990s. Once also a prominent member of the England midfield, he retired to concentrate on club duties after 2004.

Scholes is a product of United’s famed youth academy, which proved an extraordinary conveyor belt of talent in the early part of the last decade.

These days United manager Sir Alex Ferguson does not shy away from spending big on star players but, in the early part of his reign, he rarely had to look beyond his own training ground for fresh blood.

Many of United’s greatest players of recent times, including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, as well as Scholes, have all come from within.

Scholes is a local boy, from nearby Salford, but actually grew up as an Oldham Athletic supporter. He was taken on by United at a young age and broke into the first team in the 1994-95 season, making a stunning impact by scoring twice on debut against Port Vale in the English League Cup.

When he followed that up with a goal against Ipswich on his first English Premier League appearance, it seemed obvious that United had another star on their hands.

As an attacking midfielder, his early role was largely restricted to that of understudy to club legend Eric Cantona, but his talent could not be suppressed for long.

He starred in the double-winning campaign of 1995-96, when he finished second top-scorer — to Cantona — with 14 goals.

He has rarely looked back since and, at the latest count, had won seven EPL winners’ medals and three FA Cups.

He was also prominent in the UEFA Champions League-winning campaign of 1999, although suspension cost him the chance to play in the final against Bayern Munich.

Scholes’s game is built on dynamism, superb vision and a fine passing ability. He also has a reputation as a powerful finisher and has scored many spectacular goals, often volleys, throughout his career.

Naturally, he was a cornerstone of the England side for much of his seven years as an international player. He played in two World Cups and two European Championships before standing down.

He cited his United career and a desire to spend more time with his family as reasons but it was also perceived that he had grown frustrated at having to be accommodated out wide in a midfield bustling with the talent of Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Scholes keeps a low profile away from football and is fiercely protective of his family and private life. He lives in Saddleworth, near Manchester, with his wife Claire and three children, Aaron, Alicia and Aiden. Scholes rarely gives interviews and has seldom been interested in promotional activities. He is a rarity among modern footballers in that he does not have an agent.

There were fears Scholes’ career may end prematurely when he suffered a serious eye problem after a clash of heads in 2005-06 and missed the second-half of the season. Scholes had blurred vision for a long time but recovered sufficiently to play again the following season, although he admits the problem has not been 100% corrected.

Scholes may eschew the eye-catching sports cars that many of his contemporaries opt for, but as an EPL footballer he is hardly likely to drive anything less than the best.

This was proved in 2007 when one of his former cars, a top-of-the-range Mercedes S400, turned up for sale in the used car magazine Auto Trader.

The luxurious five-litre V8, which boasted acceleration of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, heated leather seats and climate control, was available at GBP24,995 with 100,000 miles on the clock.

Factfile Name: Paul Scholes Position: Midfielder Club: Manchester United DOB: 16/11/1974 England caps: 66 England goals: 14 England debut: v South Africa, May 1997 Moment to remember

Scholes is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in United’s history and has scored many brilliant and vital goals. He has been both spectacular and prolific, never more so than in helping United reclaim the EPL title in 2003. He scored for six games in succession in January and then netted an efficient hat-trick in a 6-2 thrashing of Newcastle as the finishing line neared in April.

Moment to forget

Despite his many virtues, Scholes’ tackling technique has often let him down. A late tackle saw him sent off for a second bookable offence as United suffered a potentially damaging 2-1 defeat at Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals last season. Coming just a month after a sending off against Liverpool, it was not a happy period. Fortunately for him, United recovered to win the second leg against Roma 7-1.

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