After returning from injury which saw him get sidelined for a couple of months, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba returned to a standing ovation when the Reds welcomed visitors Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday. And with good reason, as the returning Frenchman put in a stellar man-of-the-match performance which drew praise from fans and pundits alike.
His brilliant inch-perfect cross which lead to Anthony Martial’s equalising goal in the 37th minute sent the Old Trafford faithful into raptures. United have gone a goal behind before Martial scored, and the fans were grateful Pogba pulled off a fantastic assist.
The accurate pass made many watchers draw comparisons between Pogba and the legendary Paul Scholes. A member of the class of 1992, Scholes was one of the pivotal players that ushered in a golden era of success for the club, winning title after title under the tutelage of the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
Pogba’s performance on Saturday was certainly top-notch, but many hard-line, traditionalist fans would argue that the £81-million man would have to do more if he is to be adjudged in the same calibre as Scholes. Indeed, he is, simply put, the best central midfielder in United’s history. In fact, for one football legend, Scholes is even more than that.
When Barcelona icon Xavi Hernandez went face-to-face with Scholes during his club’s game against United in the Champions League group stages in 1998, the nimble Spaniard was left in awe by the Englishman’s talent. “He’s spectacular, he has it all: the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision.
“For me, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve ever seen,” Xavi added.
Manchester United went on to win that season’s Champions League trophy, beating German giants Bayern Munich at Camp Nou in that historic final match which forced Ferguson to utter the now-famous phrase “Football, bloody hell.”
Scholes played an instrumental role in that match, which for a midfielder, may be a thankless task. He kept possession, he kept things simple. He maintained United’s offence. Sure, he might not have scored a goal, but he did his job to perfection, allowing United to dominate the midfield.
The soft-spoken Scholes is not one to hound the spotlight, but his talent speaks volumes that can only leave his fellow stars in awe.
“My toughest opponent is Scholes of Manchester,” legendary footballer and current Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane once said of the Englishman.
“He is the complete midfielder. Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation,” the Los Blancos boss added.
And while his opponents have been left amazed by Scholes’ talents, his teammates could only shake their heads in disbelief at seeing a fantastic talent so up-close.
“I tell anyone who asks me – Scholes is the best English player,” fellow Reds player Laurent Blanc said.
“I’d go for Scholesy as the club’s greatest ever player. I’ve seen him do things that no other player can do. The way he can control the tempo of games, and his range of passing, are both incredible,” fellow club legend and Class of 92 mate Ryan Giggs said of his former teammate.
True enough, Paul Scholes was a midfielder in a class of his own during his prime. And while Paul Pogba certainly has the potential to reach the heights of the great Scholes, as things stand, Pogba still has a long way to be called the best central midfielder, ever.