Goal of the Day: S is for... Scholes
Our daily 'Goal of the Day' series has now reached the letter 'S' and, of course, that can only stand for Scholes.
A member of the famed 'Class of '92', Paul scored a brace for the club on debut against Port Vale in 1994, and went on to make 718 appearances for the Reds before retiring, first in 2011 and then – after making a shock return six months later – for the final time in 2013.
An elite passer of the ball, Scholes was a goal threat arriving late in the box throughout his career, as the strike below against Liverpool testifies...
Salford-born Scholes first signed for United aged 14. He progressed through the youth set-up and turned professional in 1993, a year after future team-mates Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt had claimed the FA Youth Cup. While not a part of that team, Scholes did play in the final defeat to Leeds a year later, and he didn't have too long to wait before making his senior bow.
Scholes lifted over 20 major trophies with United, but if you had to choose one snippet of his 19-year career to watch over and over again, it'd surely be that 2008 Champions League semi-final winner. Picking up a loose clearance from Barcelona's Gianluca Zambrotta, Paul found some space on the outside of the area before smashing it past Victor Valdes. Seventy-odd nailbiting minutes later, that would prove to be the only goal of the tie, and we could book our flights to Moscow – where, of course, we would make it three European Cups in the Russian rain.
Paul made his first-team breakthrough in the 1994/95 campaign, adding a further three goals in 16 appearances to that debut brace against Port Vale in the League Cup. Originally a centre-forward, Scholes filled in alongside Andy Cole the following season, when Eric Cantona was still suspended, and didn't move into a full-time central midfield role until 1997/98, due to injury to Roy Keane. It was in the middle of the park where Scholesy became a true United legend, helping United to the Treble in 1999 and notching double figures in terms of goals in seven seasons out of eight up until 2005.
In his latter years, Scholes adopted a more withdrawn position, dictating the tempo as part of Sir Alex Ferguson's final great side, which claimed four Premier League trophies in five years and reached the Champions League finals in 2008, 2009 and 2011. After the latter, Scholes announced his retirement. But he wasn't finished yet...
Just six months after seemingly walking out on football forever, Scholesy was back – as a substitute, wearing the unfamiliar no.22 – as United prepared for an FA Cup third-round tie at Manchester City. Although he'd gone over half a year without pulling on his boots, Paul came on in the second half and looked like he'd never been away, helping the Reds hold on to a narrow 3-2 advantage. Although United were dramatically denied the title by City's last-day exploits, Scholesy's 11th and final league crown did arrive in 2013. After lifting the trophy, the 38-year-old opted to retire for good this time. He has since become a familiar face on our screens, as part of BT Sport's Premier League and Champions League coverage.
WHAT THEY SAID
"I think Paul Scholes is the best player in England. He's got the best skills, the best brain. No one can match him. There isn't a player of his mould anywhere in the world." (Sir Alex Ferguson)
“At Arsenal, me and Patrick (Vieira) didn’t want to face Scholes. We would avoid him.” (Emmanuel Petit)
“Without any doubt the best player in the Premiership has to be Scholes. He knows how to do everything, and he is one who directs the way his team plays. On top of that, he has indestructible mental strength and he is a genuine competitor.” (Thierry Henry).