Scholes is one of the lucky few local Manchester lads to make it to the top
with Manchester United. Nicky Butt also hails from Manchester, while the Neville's
aren't from far down the road in Bury. But Scholes was born in Salford, in the
heart of Manchester United country.
Like Butt and the Nevilles, Scholes was signed as trainee at United in 1991 and
had turned professional by 1993. Likewise he was a member of the 1992 FA Youth
Cup winning team and made his first team leage debut at Ipswich in September 1994.
Scholes' talents as a striker were soon earning him occasional starts in the United line-up
by the time 1994-95 came around. With only a handful of starts he still notched up a
total of five goals.
The following season was when Scholes was really handed the responsibility of
regular first team football. The suspension of Eric Cantona until October 1995
gave Scholes an extended run in the team and he was hugely impressesive, scoring nine goals
in his first 12 games. Cantona's return limited his appearances and he eventually
made only 18 starts in the league that season, but still managed 14 goals.
Towards the end of that campaign Alex Ferguson even
desribed him as a `bloody little nuisance' given the selection problems he
posed with his outstanding form.
In 1997-98 Ferguson had no choice but to
find room for Scholes in the middle of the park. There he proved not only his
versatility as an accomplished attacking midfielder, but also that he can hold his
own in a gritty midfield scrap, relentlessly snapping at the heels of opponents
when not in possession. Unfortunately timing his tackling hasn't always been
his forte, and the majority of the large number of bookings he collects are
down simply to mis-timed challenges.
Nevertheless such has been his form in the centre of the park for United in the last
couple of seasons that Nicky Butt has been pushed down to third choice midfielder.
The combination of Keane's power and strength with Scholes' energy and guile
has been of huge benefit to United.
Keane's long term layoff in 1998-99 led to Scholes' longest run in the team yet
as he teamed up with Nicky Butt to try and fill the void left by their captain.
Those difficult months were probably some of the most beneficial to Scholes as
he learnt the midfield trade the hardway and in the following season he was
the better for it.
And the season finished on a personal high for Scholes as he was selected for
England's World Cup squad and in their opening game against Tunisia, scored a
spectacular 20 yard curler.
Throughout United's treble campaign he played with the same passion and determination
as ever and still got forward to score a number of important goals against
the likes of Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Aston Villa and perhaps most crucially,
a late equaliser against Inter Milan in the San Siro.
Scholes' reputation as a goalscorer had been established in 1995 and his eye
for goal has not been diminished by being moved back into midfield. His
impressive repetoire of finishing ranges from the sublime to
the spectacular. From explosive 25 yard piledrivers, as seen at Hillsbrough
in late 1996, to coolly taken tap-ins which includes his exquisite dummy
and finish past Angelo Peruzzi in the 3:2 win over Juventus in 1997.
1998-99 had a bitter sweet end for Scholes. The treble was
completed but a booking in Turin against Juventus, ruled Scholes out of the
European Cup final in Barcelona. It was a huge disappointment to the player
himself and a big loss to United, but one which they ultimately overcame. However for
a player who has contributed so much to the United cause and is a Red through
and through, it was no way to end an otherwise memorable season.