“Saudade” (pronunciation: /saʊˈdɑːdə/) is a Portuguese word that has no literal translation into English. This term sums up the feeling contained in the phrase “I miss you”, the feeling of melancholy and nostalgia. More than that, translate how irreplaceable something or somebody is in your life.
Since the retirement of Paul Scholes, the aforementioned sentiment has been tried strongly by the Mancunian supporters. After Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, concomitant with that of the “little red-head”, David Moyes and van Gaal tried to fill the gap left in the midfield. Since the 2012-13 season, some players have been seen as trying to replenish what Xavi called “the best midfielder of the last two decades”. Tom Cleverley, Nick Powell, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger went through the position as innocuous attempts to replace the irreplaceable and make a decent pair with a consistent Michael Carrick.
In the current season, the arrival of Paul Pogba is taken as the solution. It does not mean that we find Paul Scholes’ substitute: it does not exist. In theory, what we see is the complementarity of functions between the Frenchman and Ander Herrera. Allies, the duo have pass quality, marking strength, excellent game vision, claw, accurate and powerful distance kick and Red Devil fighting spirit. However, as another irreplaceable Ryan Giggs put it, “it’s impossible to replace Scholes”. This impossibility arises precisely because Paul brings together all the characteristics mentioned above in a single human being. The inventor of modern box-to-box. As Henry said, “he knew how to do everything.”
His balance to United’s midfield is, and always will be, unique. Since his retirement, United have struggled with defense problems. It would be unfair to blame the team’s imbalance only on the retirement of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. This is evident when we analyse the flaws that the team already had in the season in which the defense pair was without Scholes’ defensive protection.
After the retirement of the English midfielder, United suffered to adapt to a style of game that balanced the sectors of the team. From David Moyes’ conservatism to van Gaal’s innovation, it is clear that the Mancunian style of play has changed. Until we reached the current “stability” of the Red Devil midfield countless double formed the midfield and numerous other names were speculated in Manchester – Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Arturo Vidal, Ilkay Gundogan, Thiago, Cesc Fabregas and others.
Another characteristic present in Scholes and inherent in the “Class of ‘92” was punctuated in the autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson: “those homegrown boys carried the spirit of Manchester United inside them. That’s what they gave the club: spirit”. Needless to say, this feature would not be found in any player in the world.
Of these, perhaps the ideal name to “replace” (always in quotes) Scholes was Kroos. The German, currently immersed in the inaccessible galactic universe, possesses most of the English qualities. In a recent interview to Kicker, Paul said: “Toni is the best midfielder in the world. I was inspired by him at the end of my career. He would form a perfect trio with Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera”. However, his hiring was not guaranteed when he had the opportunity, and he is currently an inaccessible part of the cast Florentino Pérez has set up.
Anyway, what we have left is to hope that the integration of Pogba and Herrera will magnify in such a way as not to leave the team with the imbalance that had become customary in recent seasons. Paul Scholes, however, will forever be engraved in our memories and will always remain irreplaceable. To fans, the feeling that remains is of eternal gratitude and a difficult gap to be filled, in the field and outside it, which is well summarized in the word of the Portuguese language: Saudade.
Written by Paulo Cunha Júnior