Manchester United's Paul Scholes a Red "Card" Devil?
It’s been two weeks since Manchester City defeated Manchester United in the heated Manchester derby down at Wembley, and I still can’t understand how such a gifted professional like Paul Scholes loses his head and lets the red mist descend over him when the game isn’t going his way.
Without a doubt, Paul is one of the most talented, gifted midfielders of our generation, and it has been a privilege to watch him play, but since his debut in September '94, he has never been able to escape the fact that many people see him as a dirty player. Here’s a quote from Arsene Wenger in 2010:
"Who wouldn't want a quality player like Paul Scholes in his team? But ask me if he's been a fair player, I say no. I'm sorry, for me, he's not been fair. There's a little bit of a darker side in him. I don't like some things he does. It's not because you are older suddenly that you are a saint.”
Is it an amazing will to win for Scholes that he has to throw himself 110 percent into every challenge? Does he feel too pressured to deliver in the biggest games? Or is it a nasty streak that comes out when things just aren’t going his way? After a debate about the matter with friends, we thought that he seems to lose it when we could do with his brilliance on the field and not sat in the dressing room because of five seconds of stupidity. Does he just have a dirty side? Or is he a dirty player full stop?
I decided to research into every red card Schools has received for Manchester United and England to determine the outcome and the importance of the games in which they happened. (Only red cards in competitive games were checked. He has red cards in preseason games before and been suspended for the start of the season)
Manchester United V Chelsea. 7th March 1999. FA Cup QuarterfInal
In his five years as a professional, so far he has started to get a reputation as a bad tackler, but his genius football skills more than made up for it.
United were two months from making history and winning the treble, becoming the first and only English club to do so, and every game was a potential pitfall. Chelsea was breathing down United’s and Arsenal’s necks in the league and was proving a real tough obstacle for United to break through during this FA cup match.
Late during the game, when it was still locked at 0-0 and Chelsea was withstanding a barrage of united attacks, irritation got the better of Scholes, and he went straight through Bjarne Goldbaek with a sliding tackle, and the ref had no hesitation in sending Scholes off.
The match ended goalless, and Chelsea were the happier of the two teams in taking the replay back to their home ground but to no avail as Manchester United turned in a good performance to win 2-0.
Scholes had to sit out a few games due to suspension which could have proved fatal to United, missing one of their key players, but they prevailed to go on and famously win the treble. (Paul had to sit out of the biggest and last game of the season, The Champions League Final, due to a pointless booking he picked up in the semi final therefore incurring a suspension due to two bookings.
England v Sweden. 5th June 1999. Euro 2000 Qualifier. Wembley Stadium
This was a must-win match for England. Sweden were cruising in the qualifying group whilst England had slipped up in a few games; anything else but a win for England would mean that Sweden would automatically qualify for the championships whilst England would have to go into the dreaded playoffs.
Three months after his first red card and Scholes was at it again. Before the game manager Kevin Keegan told him to "go out and drop hand grenades all over the pitch" and a couple of hideous tackles later, he was back in the dressing room.
He earned his first yellow card of the night with a smash into Hakan Mild. It cut the Swede down the thigh (A lot like the tackle on Zabaleta), and he was carried bleeding from the field after a clash that could easily have seen Scholes sent straight off, but amazingly, the ref decided not to. This wasn’t as much a tackle but more of an assault on the player; he could have seriously injured him. Paul failed to heed his luck and earned a second yellow card early in the second half for a lunge and clatter into Swedish midfielder Stefan Schwartz and that was game over for Scholes and also having the unfortunate distinction of being the first England player to be sent off at Wembley.
The game ended in a stalemate, a goalless draw, and England had to go into the playoffs facing off with their bitter rivals Scotland. England had been playing so poor that the fans feared the worst going into these games, but Paul Scholes showed his brilliant side, by scoring two goals in England’s 2-0 win at Scotland, being the catalyst for their qualification into the Championships.
Manchester United v Everton. 20th April 2005. FA Premier League. Goodison Park
United were chasing the title. Everton were chasing the golden fourth spot in the league which promises a place in the Champions League the following season.
It was a typically fiery Tuesday night in Liverpool with bad tackles all through the game. Neville was the first player to go off for United just after Everton had took the lead, and as the game approached the end, Scholes let his disappointment get the better of him, when he picked up his second booking of the night for a wild kick at Kilbane
Everton saw out the end of the match and won by the one goal. Everton did indeed manage to get fourth spot whilst this defeat for United officially ended their title pursuit.
Manchester United V Lille. 18th October 2005. UEFA Champions League Group Stage
Manchester United, Lille, Villarreal and Benfica. When you consider who United could have drawn in their group in 2005 the ones they eventually did draw seemed easy enough. A straight forward route to the knock outs everyone thought but it didn’t quite go as planned.
When Lille turned up at Old Trafford United only had four points and two goals to their name, but surely that would change when they finally got to play the group minnows. It didn’t.
Lille was well organised and obstructed United to hardly any chances. The crowd were getting edgy as were the players. Scholes who had already picked up a yellow let his own frustrations get the better of him and he went in for a wild, desperate tackle on Makoun and picked up a deserved red card.
United didn’t make an impression for the last half an hour and Lille hung on for a credible draw. With Paul sitting out of the next couple of games with the resulting suspension United only managed one more point in the last three games, and embarrassingly failed for the first and only time to make it out of the group stage.
Manchester United v Liverpool. 3rd March 2007. FA Premier League. Anfield
Three years without the title just wasn’t acceptable by United’s own high standards, but this was the season where the fans could believe it was coming home again. Going into this game, United were marginally ahead of Chelsea in the league and were expecting a tough game from their North West rivals, and Liverpool didn’t fail to deliver.
If you ever want to see such a one-sided match, then make sure you find this match on the internet and watch it! Liverpool hammered United from the first whistle to the last, and it seriously looked like United would have been happy with just a point. It was a very fiery encounter, as can be expected in this fixture, and Paul Scholes and Xabi Alonso were involved in their own little battle during the game.
Scholes and Alonso had been involved in a succession of spats, and Scholes must have finally got fed up with it as he turned and raised his arm which looked like a punch in the direction of Alonso’s face. It was a straight and unquestioned red card for a disgusting moment from Paul Scholes. Never mind that United could have done with one of their most creative players to find a goal, they were struggling to keep Liverpool at bay with 11 players.
Luckily for Paul, it didn’t prove costly. John O’Shea scored a very lucky winner for United in the final seconds of the game.
Manchester United v Roma. 4th April 2007. UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals.
Just a look at this fixture and you knew it was going to be an atmosphere which would call for cool heads and for the experienced players to lead by example. So on 33 minutes when Scholes was shown a red card you just knew it would be a long night for United.
Going back to experience you would expect Scholes to know by now to be careful with tackling when in Europe, tackles which go unpunished in the English league more often than not will be given for a foul with most of the other European referees.
It was two rash tackles from him; he first went into the book after 25 minutes for a late tackle on Wilhelmsson and was dismissed eight minutes later for tripping Totti. It was all the incentive Roma needed to try and push home their advantage.
United ended up losing the game 2-1, but all was forgotten for Scholes when during his suspension Roma were hammered 7-1 in the return leg at Old Trafford.
Manchester United v Zenit. 29th August 2008. Super Cup Final. Monaco
This is like the community shield for the Europe. Champions League winners versus the then UEFA cup winners, which means most people look at this a glorified friendly. So was it really worth a red card in this game?
United were losing by two goals to nothing and just playing out the remainder of the game when a cross came into the box, and Scholes unnecessary punched it into the net therefore earning him a second yellow card with only seconds remaining.
The outcome of that meant that Paul received a suspension for such a needless act and missed United’s next European match against Villarreal which they failed to win.
Manchester United v Fulham. 21st March 2009. FA Premier League. Craven Cottage
The race for the title was heating up. Liverpool was under a resurrection and was catching United up in the league. They went into this game with Fulham full of optimism as United hadn’t lost here in 45 years and were expecting another win on the road to the title.
It didn’t help that Scholes was back having a shower after only 18 minutes, but it wasn’t for a bad tackle, it was handball again. A header from Zamora towards goal and Scholes put his hands straight up to claw it out; he sunk to his knees as he knew what was coming. A straight red card, then Fulham scored from the resulting penalty.
United went on to lose the game 2-0; it was a very hard task to ask of them to play with 70 minutes with 10 men. In hindsight, Paul should have left the ball to go in and then United could have attacked Fulham for the equalizer instead of leaving them with 10men and one goal down anyway
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur. 12th September 2009. FA Premier League
This is the one red card for Paul Scholes that he may not have actually deserved. He completely controlled the game for United in a very good performance for him, and they scored a great 3-1 win.
It was again two yellow cards for Paul, but the second was very harsh on him after a collision with Tom Huddlestone.
Manchester United V Manchester City. 16th April 2011. FA Cup Semi Final
Well, this is the one everyone was talking about, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that much about it. This was a deserved red card for a horrible late-and-high tackle which could have hurt Zabaleta worse than it already did.
United were poor before the red card and were poor after it, but what if Scholes had stayed on his feet then: you never know, United could have nicked at least one, but with him off the pitch, it only makes the game harder.
Did he realise the game was too fast for him, and once again, his frustrations boiled over and he snapped for those dangerous couple of seconds?
Scholes: Friend or Foe?
Well, there you have it. Will Paul Scholes be remembered for such magical moments like his goal against Barcelona? Or for all his dangerous tackles he’s given out in his career?
Zinedine Zidane was one of the greatest players the world has ever seen and had many breathtaking moments in the game, but I’m sure the first thing people come to, when they think of him nowadays is his head butt in the World Cup Final. There have been too many of these moments in Paul Scholes career that overshadow his brilliant moments; he has had over 100 yellow cards whilst playing for United just proving how reckless he can be, but again, all these seem to happen when United are struggling so is it his tackling or temperament?
Should Paul Scholes call it a day now? He has had a great career winning countless trophies playing some beautiful football, and even great midfielders like David’s and Zidane say he is the best opponent they have played against. But, if Paul keeps finding the game too fast for him and he snaps again in a big game, he could become a liability for United and cost them a huge game say for example the European Cup Final.
So will the genius always outweigh the madness? Or could there be one more red card, that we will always remember him for.