There is something majestic about Paul Scholes passing style. To put it in Ian Holloway’s words ”When he passes the ball it stays passed.
The ball goes exactly where he wants it to.” The Manchester United man had a surreal control over his passes, which makes him the greatest Premier League midfielder in my book.
Scholes could exquisitely weight his pass. He would often launch a ball from deep inside his own half to find a teammate at the opposite end of the pitch.
Sometimes, he would plunge a through ball dissecting the opposite defense like a knife through butter.
Paul Scholes assists and goal numbers don’t do justice to the player’s ability. While his stats are quite impressive, there are other players who better those numbers.
It was also a shame that he couldn’t replicate his club success for his country.
The former England international, who had earned 66 caps for the Three Lions, often had to assume wider playing positions in the national team setup.
If he were assigned a more central role, maybe he could have had a more memorable career wearing an England shirt.
No England manager managed to exploit Paul Scholes passing strength properly like Sir Alex Ferguson did at Man United.
Paul Scholes: Man United Legend
Paul Scholes has enjoyed enviable success as a footballer. He was a member of Manchester United’s fabled Class of 92, won 11 Premier League titles, kissed the Champions League trophy twice.
And he came back from retirement to inspire an injury-ridden Man United side to a fairytale-like Premier League glory in 2013.
His story is pebbled with so many accomplishments that it’s not improbable for one to mistake it for fiction.
Many midfielders have lit up the Premier League throughout the history of the competition with their creative flair.
From current day Kevin de Bruyne and N’Golo Kante to Matt Le Tissier, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard of the forgone days- the English top-flight has been blessed with numerous midfield maestros over the years.
But how many of them can outmatch the brilliance of Paul Scholes in the middle of the park? In my honest opinion, none!
His technical awareness and surgeon-like dexterity in passing make him stand out from the rest. Paul Scholes passing range was so diverse and unpredictable.
What Do Other Players and Managers Think Of Him?
‘’Out of everyone at Manchester United, I would pick out Scholes – he is the best midfielder of his generation. I would have loved to have played alongside him.’’Pep Guardiola
‘’I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes. In so many ways Scholes is my favourite.’’Sir Bobby Charlton
“In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything. He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.”Xavi Hernandez
‘’You rarely come across the complete footballer, but Scholes is as close to it as you can get. One of my regrets is that the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career.’’Zinedine Zidane
“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
Why Paul Scholes Assist & Goal Numbers Fail To Show His Talent
Goals and assists number is the yardstick that people tend to lean towards while critiquing a non-defensive footballer.
From this point of view, many would argue that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were far superior players than Scholes.
Only considering Premier League numbers, Lampard scored 177 goals and set up 118 for his teammates in 611 appearances.
Gerrard managed 121 goals and 87 assists in 504 matches, while Scholes registered 107 goals and 54 assists in 499 outings.
At first glance, Gerrard and Lampard appear to have had a better career than Scholes. The Salford FC co-owner has a far inferior goal/assist ratio per game (0.32) than the other two (Gerrard 0.41 and Lampard 0.48).
But, this doesn’t paint the whole picture. Lampard and Scholes were the set-piece takers of their teams and a significant number of their goals have come from dead-ball scenarios.
The current Chelsea manager has 37 set-piece goals and his Rangers counterpart has converted 36 from free-kicks or penalties.
The Man United number 18, on the other hand, was never the designated set-piece taker of his club. All of his goals are open play goals, so one might argue he was actually a better finisher than Gerrard and Lampard.
Paul Scholes Assists
Paul Scholes assist numbers also pale in comparison with the former Liverpool and Chelsea captains.
But often he was the one coming up with the incisive delivery deep from the midfield, which changed legs once more, before finding the back of the net.
Gerrard was famous for catching out opposition defenders with his miraculous long balls.
As Lampard operated more on a box-to-box basis, long balls were not a necessary component of his playing style.
However, when the situation demanded, he was capable of finding his target with long, exploratory passes.
That said, Paul Scholes passing range had a specialty to it. He was capable of timing the trajectory of the ball to perfection.
He used to drift the ball in such a way, that it didn’t stay long in the air before finding one of his colleagues raging towards the enemy line.
This particular detail allowed the recipient a couple of yards of extra space. Which he could utilise to pinpoint a decisive pass into the box for the striker to pick up.
Scholes played a crucial role in the buildup of countless United goals he didn’t get credits for officially.
Scholes averaged 19.54 accurate passes per Premier League game. His passing attributes made him an indispensable part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary Man United teams.
Many critics point out his lack of pace, but he more than made up for it with his insightful positioning and fluid passing.
Moreover, he had a knack for turning up in the biggest of stages. He controlled the tempo of the game with nerves of steel, and when his team needed a way out, he often came up with a screamer like this-
Signed Off On a High
To help out his lifelong club, Scholes came out of retirement and returned as a member of the Manchester United squad in the 2012/13 season.
Upon his return, he proved to be a valuable utility player for the record time Premier League champions. Deployed as a deep-lying playmaker, he delivered whenever he was called into action.
Despite being 37 years old back then, Scholes put a considerable amount of mileage on the pitch. He played 53 passes on average per game, with a success rate of 92.4%.
He also played 127 accurate long balls that season, which suggests he was far more than a squad filler.
Whenever he played, Scholes influenced his surrounding players to excel. His distribution skills profoundly benefited the two wingers Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.
The veteran also succeeded in bringing the best out of his midfield comrade Michael Carrick to form a formidable midfield duo.
Here’s a short clip of Paul Schole’s performance in United’s away trip to Anfield in his last season.
The player was well beyond his prime, but he still managed to showcase some nifty passing skills at one of the most hostile grounds to visit in England.
Speaks volume about the value he added to the title-winning Red Devils squad.
Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t convinced of Paul Scholes’s prospects when he first saw him play. With a height of 5’7”, Scholes didn’t have the ideal body structure of a midfield enforcer.
But, he successfully shrugged off his physical limitations with his technical skills and passing brilliance.
Undoubtedly, Paul Scholes passing acumen earns him a place alongside some of the most gifted players to have ever played the game.