By Rasmus Lukunka
I don’t know about you but I also have an opinion on the infamous topic of finding a replacement for Paul Scholes. Several players have been mentioned as ideal replacements by pundits and writers. But when asked on the ideal replacement, Sir Alex, the man who created and managed Scholes compared him to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta; who are irreplaceable trailblazers of the modern game.
I have been a keen follower of the Premier League since its inception, a period when Manchester United begun to develop the habit of winning. As a young man, I grew up idolizing the new crop of United players who were only a few years older than I was.
What I saw were the likes of Becks, Giggs, Butt, Neville, and Scholesy play their hearts out against oppositions much more experienced and established than them. They made tireless runs, battled hard and often delivered 3 points. As the years rolled on, Scholes and his mates grew larger in character…they became household names and epitomized what our generation knows today as Manchester United.
However, what intrigues me most about the Scholes replacement talk is the fact that the game has evolved. It’s faster, more competitive and unpredictable. As a result, the players have also evolved.
Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder are two players often described as ideal replacements. Both are proven and intelligent players who have the ability to take on defenders and create space out of nothing. Like Scholes, they read the game well and on a good day can score a goal seemingly like another training ground routine.
Unlike Modric and Sneijder though Scholes hardly made the kind of runs that instilled fear in the eyes of defenders. Although he lacked natural pace, it played to his advantage because he was able to increase his level of awareness. He was often involved in the 2 or 3 touches prior to a United goal. Technically gifted, what made Scholes stand out were the assortment of passes in his arsenal. He often made short passes around the centre of the pitch before delivering a long-range pass to the feet of a winger or striker. A master of passes longer than 30 – 40 yards dispatched from the middle of the park, Scholes made it look so simple.
A fairly recent example was in the Champion’s League encounter against Chelsea; he bombed a pass from around centre field towards the corner flag, Rooney clinically smashing a low cross, across the goal which Valencia dispatched with ease.
In today’s game the ball is increasingly played on the ground – unless you’re a team in the bottom half of the table, making a necessary clearance, or executing a set piece.
Paul Scholes is well known for excellent execution of the long ball from open play. Unfortunately these kind of techniques had to come to an end for a chance to compete against teams that held possession over longer periods of time. For example, prior to the 2011 Champions League Final between United and Barcelona, Nani mentioned that Sir Alex was preparing United for the encounter by replicating Barcelona’s possession style of play in practice. It was clear the game had changed.
These tactical changes significantly impacted Scholes’ game more than most players in the squad and started a few years back when he became a substitute player in an effort to accommodate speed, precise tackling, and less long balls.
That said, when fans think about the ideal replacement for the legendary Paul Scholes, they need to remember that the game has changed – it’s faster, the middle of the park is more congested, and competition is much greater.
…at the end of the contest, all we’re left with is history and perspective.
About the Author
Rasmus was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambian and has been living in the United States since 1996. He’s been a keen follower of the English Premier League since its inception.Rasmus has been a contributor to Oldtrafford.com since November, 2011. He has also worked with several local newspapers and sports affiliate websites to promote the game of Football(Soccer) in the United States. As a Banker for one of the largest financial institutions in the United States, Rasmus is passionate about helping individuals achieve their financial goals.