Paul Scholes' 100th Premier League goal puts him in elite class.
Last Saturday, Paul Scholes produced a flicker of his vintage class and finished with refined composure in helping Manchester United secure a crucial victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Seizing upon an error by Jody Craddock, Scholes, typically poised, dragged the ball wide of two defenders, before slotting into the bottom left corner. With this goal, he joined an elite band of eighteen other players with 100 or more goals in the Premier League, an achievement which was delayed only due to a tactical and seemingly pragmatic shuffle that has seen him positioned deeper in midfield in recent seasons.
There was a time when there used to be scores of goals, ranging from finessed headers to full-blooded screamers, but since recovering from an eye problem in 2006, Scholes' deployment as a deep-lying central midfielder has restricted his goal scoring if not his ingenuity. His performances may not be as eye-catching as they once were, but the magnitude of his contributions cannot be underestimated. Although unfamiliar with the holding role, Scholes, possessed of pristine touch, a wide range of passing and a peerless footballing brain, has dictated the tempo of a game in matchless fashion. Inevitably though age had to catch up and particularly this season, he has looked out of pace at times, which seemed to suggest that the end is nigh, but a return to an advanced position in midfield in recent games has caused a definite rejuvenation in him.
The goal in the first leg of Manchester United's Champions League tie against AC Milan, although fortuitous, was much like his goal against Wolves, a product of his endeavour to make runs into the box, without abandoning caution, yet with renewed vitality and unrivalled timing. In his team's significant victory against Arsenal in the Premier League, Scholes' craftiness was most effective only when he was positioned closer to the final third of the pitch. Although reverting to a more withdrawn role against Milan in the second leg, he continued his resurgence and in a rare attacking foray produced a perfectly weighted through-ball for Park Ji Sung to score Manchester United's third in a 4-0 rout.
Although starting and finishing more games this year than in recent seasons, Scholes feels that this could be his last hurrah, but with no obvious replacement available, a contract is on offer for an additional year, which if he is inclined to carry on will be signed without fuss regardless of its finer details. Scholes is one of a kind, a player bereft of modern-day football's celebrity trappings, one blessed with a wonderful amalgam of footballing nous and technical polish. Cherish him whilst he is still there, for there never will be another of his ilk.
1974: Born Salford, 16 Nov
1991: Joins Man Utd as a trainee
1994: First-team debut v Port Vale, 21 Sept
1995: First Premier League goal v West Ham United, August
1996: Wins Double
1997: England debut v South Africa, 24 May
1999: Wins treble, but misses Champions League final
2004: Retires from international football
2006: Plays 500th game for Man Utd v. Liverpool, 22 Oct
2008: Wins Champions League
2010: Scores 100th Premier League goal v Wolves, 6 March
Suhrith has finished law from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata