Manchester United's reluctant hero Paul Scholes makes top 10 all-time goalscorers
It says everything about Paul Scholes that he crept unnoticed into Manchester United's all-time goalscorers top 10 with his dramatic injury-time winner against Manchester City on Saturday.
No fanfare, no fuss – aside from a startling kiss on the lips from Gary Neville – and certainly no pre-planned celebration.
Scholes has made a career out of going unnoticed, but his absence will be noted when he has gone and is no longer around to make such crucial interventions as his 149th goal in a United shirt that revitalised the champions’ challenge for a fourth successive title.
The 35 year-old has never come close to the Footballer of the Year award and has consistently gone without nomination for the Professional Footballers’ Association prize, but throughout Europe, the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta have spoken of their admiration of Scholes.
“I’m not the best. Paul Scholes is. We can all learn from Paul Scholes,” Davids said.
United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar claims that the former England midfielder has always been more celebrated on the continent than in the Premier League.
Van der Sar said: “A lot of players talk about Scholes in Holland, even Italy and elsewhere.
“His image isn’t that big, and of course he’s not into publicity and that side of things, but I know that, every year, the big players recognise the quality of Scholesy.
“It’s because of his passing ability, his technique, scoring ability. Even Xavi and Iniesta are talking about him. So many players have a lot of respect for him as a player and for what he has done for United during his career.
“He has been scoring goals for a long time and while he might not be a box-to-box player anymore, in the 93rd minute he still popped up with a great goal.”
Scholes, plucked by United from the playing fields of Middleton — a mere four miles from Eastlands — as a teenager, resisted the urge to retire this summer by signing a one-year contract at Old Trafford 24 hours before the trip to City.
And despite his match-winning contribution, even City legend Francis Lee bowed to Scholes’s achievements following United’s 1-0 victory.
Lee said: “Down the years there have been arguments about who has been the best United player since the days of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best, but in my mind there has never been any question. Scholesy has always been the man.
“He showed us that, even at 35, he can still run the biggest of games. I love his football intelligence. The more I have watched him the more I have felt: ‘This boy is Manchester United through and through’.”
With Chelsea losing at Tottenham following United’s victory at City, captain Neville insists that the title race remains in the balance.
He said: “The manager asked us before the game: ‘Do you want to win this title?’ It may sound an obvious thing to ask, but the answer is yes, of course we do want to do that.
“We have to go for it. The fundamental thing we have to focus on is winning our remaining three games rather than concerning ourselves with other teams. But if we win our three remaining matches and Chelsea slip up again, the title will be ours.”
Meanwhile, Neville is unlikely to face Football Association action for his badge-kissing celebrations following Scholes’s goal.