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Manchester United Idols: Paul Scholes – a precise kicker of the ball and a vital cog in the team

Manchester United has an outstanding midfielder in Paul Scholes, who came though the famous Class of 92 alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and brothers Phil and Gary Neville. Scholes began training with United at the age of 14, joining the club in 1991 when he left school. Scholes is asthmatic, which did not seem to hamper his footballing career and also suffered from Osgood–Schlatter disease, something which affects younger athletes.

Trained by the late Eric Harrison, Scholes and his teammates shone brightly at a young age, which is something that set him and many others up for their entire careers. In 1992 and 1993, United won the FA Youth Cup at a time where the Class of 92 started to graduate from youth football, setting sights towards reaching the first team, at the time managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. Scholes and his teammates had the talent to succeed, some of them for a number of years.

Scholes was not part of the team that lifted the trophy in 1992 against Crystal Palace after a 6-3 aggregate victory but the following year, beating Leeds United 4-1 on aggregate, he played in both legs of the final. This saw him rise into the first team, although in the 1993/94 season he did not made a single appearance with United winning back-to-back Premier League titles before he kicked a ball in the team. He did win 11 league titles during his career though, so missing out on two will not faze him.

At the start of the 1994/95 season, with United seeking to win the Premier League for the third season in a row, Scholes made his debut at first team level, starting against Port Vale in the League Cup second round first leg at Vale Park with the ginger ninja scoring a brace in the 2-1 victory. He scored seven goals in 25 appearances throughout all competitions that season with a new, youthful United team pushing themselves forward. However, that season, Blackburn Rovers pipped United to their third Premier League crown.

By the 1995/96 season, all six members of the Class of 92 were regular starters in the first team with Ferguson’s grip on the club showing signs of success, which would continue to run for almost the entirety of the manager’s career at the club. Scholes was becoming a magnificent player for the club and that would drive him to play for the club for the remainder of his career, and then some.

Scholes was great with a football. He could pick out a teammate or even the manager from the other side of the training ground, hitting them exactly where he wanted to. This led to him being nicknamed ‘Sat-Nav’ by his teammates. Scholes won his first Premier League title in the 1995/96 season, doubling the clubs glory with the FA Cup that season also – the club second double in three seasons. Trophies and medals were something players of Scholes’ ability were always going to win. It is just a shame that he could not have won something when playing for England.

Scholes was capped by England from 1997 until 2004 when he retired from international football. He played 66 times, scoring 14 goals, which included a hat-trick against Poland at Wembley and a brace against Scotland at Hampden Park the same year, both matches were UEFA Euro 2000 qualifiers. Scholes also played in the FIFA World Cup in 1998, UEFA Euro 2000 and 2004 with England not getting any bragging rights despite more than 30 years of hurt. No fault of his own – they tried but it was not meant to be.

Scholes hung up his boots for England in 2004. Perhaps it was too early but the player had a young family and he was missing a lot so decided to stick to club football. He also did not think that his form in his last 20-30 matches was good enough and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were the main starters in the team, at least centrally. It was a choice that he regrets making so soon. Earlier this month, Scholes said:

“I had a young family at the time and going away for England for ten days at a time, sometimes six weeks in the summer, it just wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t enjoying it.

“I know a lot was made of Sven-Goran Eriksson playing me on the left-hand side of midfield but that was never the problem.

“My form in the last 20 or 30 caps wasn’t quite good enough and Steven and Frank were two top-class players who he went with centrally.

“I went on the left but I played there many times for United and was quite successful there, scored a few goals so it was never really why I left England.

“It was just a personal choice.

“I do regret leaving England so soon. I went back to United and my football changed.

“I had been a player who was expected to score goals all the time for England, which I was judged on.”

Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Fabio Capello wanted Scholes to come out of international retirement, six years after making what may have been a premature decision. At the time, he was playing in a much deeper midfield role, a position he had only played in for United. England had a few injuries and he was given a few days to decide. He remained in international retirement, clearly feeling that he had made the right decision six years earlier. Scholes said:

“I was tempted to come back, you’d hear whispers all the time but there was only the one time really officially.

“It was before the World Cup in South Africa, I’d played well that season and they were struggling with a few injuries.

“Fabio Capello wanted me to come back, I got a phone call from Stuart Pearce who was on the staff.

“I had a few days to think about it and I felt I was playing well enough, I just decided that it was wrong.

“I hadn’t been involved in qualifying and there were other players who had been in the squad for two years, being away from their families.

“Sir Alex Ferguson saw that he wanted me to play well into my 30s and I needed a different position.

“I moved back and controlled games from midfield, sitting deep, and I was never that player for England.

“I ended up playing there for five or six years and looking back playing there from 30-35 was probably the most enjoyable part of my career.

“I really enjoyed that position, I wasn’t scoring goals but to sit back and control games, I really enjoyed it. I finished with England too early to progress in that position.”

Scholes impressed many a player at United, one that thought he was phenomenal was Nani, who signed for United from Sporting CP, just like Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani was a good player but consistency was something he lacked a lot of the time, but saying that, he was responsible for some great goals which led to achievements for United. The Portuguese winger was taken aback by Scholes, confirming that he was phenomenal, saying:

“One player who really surprised me and impressed me a lot in the beginning was Paul Scholes – he was phenomenal.

My favourite was still Cristiano Ronaldo – the best. Best player ever? I have seen so many… even from the past like Maradona, Pele… but I would pick my companion of many battles, someone I have won so much with, someone I really respect.

“Numbers don’t lie and they also show he is the best – Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Scholes could have been considered as the or if not one of the best midfielders in world football during his career. He seemed to be a one club player and never really cause much trouble, seemingly happy to continue to play for United and do what he could on the pitch, the majority of the time at least. Speaking to the BBC recently, Scholes confirmed that he was never really made aware of other clubs wanting to sign him, other than one conversation he had with a football agent. He said:

“I was never ever made aware of any team coming in for me. I did have one phone call off an agent, Bryan Robson’s old agent, he rang me while we were away at Euro 2000 to ask me if I would be interested in going to Inter Milan but that’s the only phone call I ever had.

I never heard anything after that and the manager never said anything to me. I was playing at my boyhood club, I was a Manchester lad, we were winning trophies all the time.

“If the manager said to me that he didn’t want me I would definitely have gone if there was a big club abroad who wanted me but there was never any need to ever think about Barcelona, Real Madrid or AC Milan because I was at the biggest club in the world anyway.

“We didn’t win as many Champions Leagues as we should have but we were every inch as good as those teams, if not better.”

Scholes will be remembered from one of the coolest Manchester United goals of all time which came against Barcelona in the clubs run to reaching and winning the UEFA Champions League in 2008. After a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp, United were at home to Barça needing something special. It was Scholes’ goal that did just that, putting United into the final in Moscow in which they would face Chelsea. What seemed like greatness personified was confirmed as slicing the ball. Scholes said:

“I miskicked it, personally. I sliced it off my foot.”

Scholes ended his career at United at the end of the 2010/11 season, winning 10 Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, five FA Community Shields, two UEFA Champions League trophies, one Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup. He played in his testimonial on the 5 August 2011 against the New York Cosmos, reunited with Eric Cantona who was the director of football for the club. United won 6-0 with Scholes scoring the opening goal with a trademark free-kick from 25 yards. He was a big miss for United, who struggled in midfield thereafter.

His retirement lasted around six months or so with the player resigning for United in January 2012 and coming on as a substitute against Manchester City, a 3-2 victory in the FA Cup that season. That season was to be his last, along with Ferguson, who announced his plans to return towards the end of the season. United, Ferguson, and Scholes ended this in style though, wrestling the Premier League title from City, making it number twenty, a two-title lead over Liverpool. Scholes’ career was a great one for United, playing 718 times and scoring 155 goals. He only made 499 league appearances for United, one more might have been fitting. Paul Scholes, Sat-Nav, the Ginger Ninja, whatever you called him can only be replaced with the word; legend.

Written by John Walker

David Beckham a Manchester United Legend

Although David Beckham was part of the class of 92 that took football by storm in 90’s and early 2000’s he was actually born and raised in London. However, his roots and love for Manchester United were instilled from an early age as the club was passionately supported by his family. As he got older and began catching the eye of a few clubs especially after attending a football school ran by Bobby Charlton his footballing ability meant he was a hot prospect.

Both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were vying for his signature and it left Beckham with the choice of the South or the North. Beckham, of course, joined Manchester United and joined up with the likes of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs in the youth set-up. They formed a unique bond and won a string of reserve trophies including the FA Youth Cup. Following a brief loan spell with Preston North End, Beckham finally was promoted to the first team alongside the other members of the Class of 92 and this provoked much criticism from the media as Sir Alex Ferguson entrusted the kids rather than bringing in marquee signings.

This turned out to be another masterclass from Ferguson as the side went on to win the Premier League and FA Cup in that season. Throughout his time at the club, Beckham was a masterful right midfielder who was deadly with Free Kicks and his crosses combined with vision created an abundance of chances for his teammates to get on the end of. He also scored some eye-catching long-range strikes that added to his phenomenon most famously his halfway strike at Wimbledon caught the eye of the nation even being named in the top 100 Greatest Sporting Moments by Channel 4.

He collected a compelling list of awards at United both with the team as he helped clinch six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Champions League and at an individual level winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year as well as coming runner-up in the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 1999. As Beckham surged into the British and world limelight his every move was analysed and it became far more than just about his football.

Towards the back-end of his career at Old Trafford, the media began to push the story that his Celebrity wife had become a bad influence and this seemed to begin his departure at the club an idea reiterated by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2007, stating that:

“He was never a problem until he got married,” and that “He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part.”

It was his rise to household name status that ultimately led to his career at Old Trafford coming to an end and although his time at the club begun his metameric rise to stardom it was also his passionate relationship with England that helped forge his legacy.

His time with England had the extreme lows and the extreme highs, the death threats he received following a red card against Argentina in second round of the 1998 World Cup could have spelt the end for most players but he fought on and ended at the time the most capped outfield player in the country’s history with 115 appearances only to be surpassed by fellow Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney. One of his most famed highlights was the perfect free kick he famously whipped in against Greece to secure World Cup qualification at Old Trafford.

His life after Manchester United has been just as rewarding. Following his departure from the club he had successful periods at Real Madrid, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and LA Galaxy. It was his spell in America that convinced him to pour more of his time and effort into founding an MLS team in Miami. Which is aiming to be established into the MLS in 2020. Beckham is almost certainly one of the most popular and well know icons in the UK and perhaps the world having careers as a footballer and a celebrity particularly featuring in the world of fashion.

Ultimately, he really is a true legend of the club and is met with great applause and rapture whenever he returns to the club and whilst globally he may be remembered for differing reasons he was forged at Manchester United a club that has a special place in his heart.

Written by Josh Keifer

Dion Dublin: If it wasn’t for me, Manchester United would not have signed Eric Cantona

Sunday 26th November 2017 was the 25th anniversary of Eric Cantona leaving Leeds United and signing for Manchester United. The prolific Frenchman cost just £1.2 million, a steal. Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby had telephoned United chairman Martin Edwards to see if he could sign Denis Irwin from the Old Trafford club but Edwards was in the middle of a meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson at the time, with both Ferguson and Edwards declaring that Irwin was not for sale. United

United were seeking a new striker with Dion Dublin breaking his leg and the club failing to sign David Hirst, Matt Le Tissier, and Brian Deane, Cantona was now a man United were chasing. The deal was done within a few days with the Frenchman signing for United on the 26th November 1992. Dublin’s career as United was near enough done before it really took off, playing his last game on the 8th May 1994. This was a shame as injury was the main thing which ended his United career, Cantona’s form being the other.

Dublin, aged 25 at the time of his departure from the Theatre of Dreams, had made 17 appearances, six of them starts, scoring just three goals. Cantona left the club at the end of the 1996/97 season, playing 185 times, one appearance off the bench, scoring 82 goals for the club. Dublin has given his take on a few things from Cantona, naming the best player he had played with from his time at the club, also talking about the famous Class of 92. Dion Dublin, speaking exclusively to 888Sport, was asked a series of questions, his responses being:

Did you ever get to play with Cantona (even in training) and just how good was he?

“Eric Cantona was very unique in the way that he played the game. I think he saw the game differently to most people. He was fearless towards any other human being and he was fearless towards failure so he tried all sorts. He was outstanding.

“When I broke my leg Manchester United had to find somebody of a very, very high standing to take my place so they turned to Eric Cantona (laughs). He didn’t just fill my boots; he took it to the next level and he was brilliant. I do consider myself the catalyst to Manchester United’s success because if it wasn’t for me they wouldn’t have signed Eric Cantona. They don’t have to thank me though, it’s fine.”

Who was the best player you played within your time at Manchester United?

“Bryan Robson. Next question. No problem in choosing that one at all.”

You were there when the class of ’92 were coming through. Did any of them stand out particularly?

“They all had their tick-box list and they all did exactly as they were supposed to do. They didn’t complicate things which is one of the clever things about the Class of 92. Gary Neville defended very, very well. He was vocal and confident. David Beckham…I’ve never known anyone to strike a ball like he did. He put it where you said. As for Giggsy he was one of the quickest I’ve ever seen whilst running with the ball and keeping it under control then having an end product. And Paul Scholes, well, say no more.”

Did anyone think that Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs would go on to achieve everything that they have?

“I think they did. Ryan Giggs would possibly be in the top three of players I’ve ever played with because of his achievements, and his longevity, and his craft and professionalism. I always knew Giggs would do well. Always, always. And Scholesy, well his nickname is SatNav because he knows where everybody is. At any given time in a game Scholesy would be able to find you with a pass. Left, right foot, he wouldn’t talk about, he’d just do it: he was that good.”

Dublin may not be a player to have won the lot at the Theatre of Dreams like many before and after him, but he still has a place in the history of the club, his injury being one of the many factors for Cantona being a United player, and that telephone call from Bill Fotherby, which was just as important.

Read the full 888Sport interview with Dublin, including his thoughts on the class of ’92.

copyright: JW