When the ball hit the back of the net against Wolves a few weeks ago we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. We weren’t playing too well and we were in desperate need of the points. With tough games on the horizon we couldn’t afford to drop points there.
I wouldn’t have cared if that winning goal had come off Gary Neville’s arse, as long as it went in, but it was great to see Paul Scholes get it, given that it was his 100th league goal. It reminded of a couple of other moments in his career though.
A couple of weeks before securing our 7-1 win against Roma in the Champions League in 2007, United secured an impressive Premiership victory. We had gone a goal down at home against Blackburn Rovers and went in at half time behind. Fifteen minutes in to the second half and we were still a goal behind but our fans roared the team on.
Then the ball fell to Scholesy in the box. “SHOOT!” we cried out, but he patiently dragged the ball past the charging defender. “SHOOT!” we cried again, but still he refused to strike the ball. “SHOOOOOOT!” was screamed, this time with total desperation, and Scholesy put his foot through the ball and levelled the scored. 12 minutes later Carrick put us 2-1 up, 10 minutes after than Park made it 3-1 before Solskjaer added the fourth in injury time. Seven games to go and five wins were needed to secure our first title win since 2004.
Most players would have struck the ball when it first game to them, feeling the pressure of needing a goal, but their panic would likely have resulted in the ball being blocked. But Scholesy had the composure, experience and ability to wait for the perfect moment to strike. It were these characteristics which enabled him to score against Wolves, as he waited for his opponent to slide in before pulling the trigger.
His celebration was wild, reacting like a young lad after scoring his first United goal, rather than a man in his mid-30s scoring his 100th (148th in all competitions). I tried to recall the last time he looked so out of control. He looked pretty bloody happy against Barcelona and was impressed impressed with himself against Aston Villa, but the last time he had that mental look about him was when he scored the opening goal against Liverpool a few months in to the 06-07 season on his 500th appearance for the club. We were looking for the break through, after being top for much of the first half, when Scholes put away one of the scrappiest goals he’s ever scored. The game is probably better remembered for Rio Ferdinand’s ridiculously good goal and ridiculous celebration (yes, he was being serious with that whole “Brap!” carry on) but it was Scholes’ goal that set us on our way.
With Anderson out injured for the season and Owen Hargreaves still yet to make an appearance for the first team, we are relying on Scholes more than we would probably like to. Not because he isn’t incredibly able still, as that quite simply isn’t the case, but because he is getting on a bit and can’t perform consistently at the highest level for three games in seven days.
Still, Scholes looks set to achieve his highest goal tally since 2005 and has plenty to offer the team as we close in on our fourth consecutive title. It’s not just his ability but the aforementioned qualities. He is still hungry as he was as a little lad breaking in to the first team almost two decades ago and he has the patience and experience to keep his head when it matters.
Whilst the jury is still out on Gary Neville, this really shouldn’t be Scholes’ last season and I hope it is a taste of more glory in May which will convince him to keep on going.
Paul Scholes, we salute you.
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