With the ongoing transfer sagas regarding midfielders and Manchester United, Eion Smith explains why trying to replace Paul Scholes should not be the goal for United this summer…
With the second (and, by the looks of it, permanent) retirement of legendary ginger and midfielder Paul Scholes, Manchester United fans are hoping and praying that David Moyes replaces him – preferably with a big name. Names like Thiago, Strootman and Fabregas have been linked to Old Trafford but nothing has materialised yet. The heir to Scholes’ throne eludes them. Yet, a successor to the throne is not needed but rather a new king of the United engine room is.
The fan love for Paul Scholes is well documented and well deserved. A one club man, he was part of the young core along with Beckham, the Nevilles, Nicky Butt etc. that ushered in an era of dominance. Scholes was the metronome for United, showing outstanding technical ability, passing range, an eye for goal (mostly spectacular) and a physicality that meant he survived the fast paced, and sometimes brutal, early years of the Premier League. Players have came and went from United but Scholes was the one of the constants of the last 20 years or so. His legendary status is unquestionable and rightfully so. He has carved out such a legacy that finding a replacement is crucial in the fans’ eyes.
However, a straight replacement for Scholes is not what United have to focus on. The centre of the United midfield may not excite the football fan the way that other teams midfields do but it has guaranteed, proven Premier League winners and, perhaps crucially, lots of depth. And when you take each player individually, there is some talent in there. Michael Carrick was undoubtedly the star of the United midfield last season and his passing ability (while not quite on the Scholes level) is of the highest quality. Anderson may not be the most consistent but he has shown flashes of brilliance during his time at United and with a good run in the team he could prove himself to skeptics out there. Darren Fletcher has been sidelined a lot recently due to illness but he is scheduled to return in the next few months and he is an excellent and dependable player. Shinji Kagawa never really took off last season but his quality is undoubted and with more game time he may just show why United fans were falling over themselves to praise him. Ryan Giggs has adapted from flying winger to cultured central midfielder in the last few years and can provide proven quality in small doses when United need it. Yes, none of them are a like for like replacement for Scholes but they do provide United with quality and creativity in the midfield. Another midfielder will just crowd an already crowded situation unnecessarily.
Besides, United have (in my opinion) a replacement for Scholes right under their noses and he goes by the name of Tom Cleverley. Cleverley is a player who I really rate (despite being a Liverpool fan). He is technically excellent and, being just 23 years old, has a huge amount of time on his side (barring injuries obviously). This is a young man who was earmarked by Sir Alex Ferguson as a potential successor to Scholes. Buying in a player like Fabregas at this time would just stunt the development of this excellent young player due to the lessened game time he would receive. And with Cleverley having already missed most of the 2011-12 season due to injury, I think he needs to get out on the pitch. United fans don’t need to cry about missing out on Thiago and Strootman (and probably Fabregas) but rather embrace Cleverley as their successor.
Another point to make is that, perhaps, United don’t need a like for like replacement for Scholes but just a new hero in the middle of the park. That is why Cleverley and other exciting young prospects (Jesse Lingard, Nick Powell etc.) should be allowed the chance to truly shine by David Moyes. The era of Paul Scholes is over and United need to move on and evolve. No team has ever played the same way throughout football history but instead they have evolved (Barcelona have not been the poster boys of “tiki taka” forever). A player like Cleverley can add a new and fresh dimension to the United midfield and can help spark a new era under David Moyes. Paul Scholes is a legend but he is also the past and United don’t need to let him become a large shadow that is cast over every new signing or replacement (think Maradona and all those “new Maradonas” that came and went). United have to evolve just as they did when Beckham, Cole, Ronaldo etc. left and youth can bring along that evolution.
As you can see United and David Moyes do not need to bring in a replacement for Scholes. The reason there is this big hoopla around United buying a replacement is that the fans will only get behind Moyes if he signs a big name which is a stupid reason. United don’t need a big name player (let alone midfielder) and those fans who criticise and have criticised Moyes for not getting a big name player (Thiago, Fabregas) are fools. Big names do not mean big performances (Torres). So, Moyes should not aim to replace Scholes and instead aim to appease the fans when the season gets going.
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