Armchair Pundit

Good old Scholes: why the surprise?

Alex Chick

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Is Paul Scholes turning into some sort of media star?

The Manchester United midfielder normally speaks about as often as Harpo Marx, but he gave post-match interviews after the Community Shield and last night's 3-0 win against Newcastle.

Is he planning a Beckham-style vault into celebrity? Will his goldenballs protrude from Armani billboards across the globe? Will he be the public face of England's 2022 World Cup bid after 2018 goes up in flames?

It seems unlikely.

In fact, Scholes was only fulfilling the contractual obligation that comes with being man of the match.

Yes, the 35-year-old was the best player on the pitch in United's first two games of the season, and by no small margin.

Scholes has been magnificent, spreading the ball around with the kind of authority and majesty England could only dream.

But let's not fall into the trap of thinking he should have gone to the World Cup. In a midfield as crammed full of alpha males as England, Scholes would have been just as useless as the rest - not given the time or the responsibility to dictate the tempo.
Yet it is inevitable that England's favourite footballer is a man who was not in South Africa in the summer.

Everybody loves Scholes, and if he keeps it up, he could be in line for the kind of belated deification Ryan Giggs received at the same age.

The Welshman was voted 2008-09 PFA Player of the Year despite starting only 12 Premier League games, then scooped BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Personality has never been Scholes's forte, but Giggs's elevation shows anything is a possibility when you are an age-defying footballer in a red shirt.

Shaun Custis sounded a typically amazed that the pair should be able to shuffle around a pitch effectively, writing in today's Sun:

"They put the old into Old Trafford but Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs show no sign of swapping their boots for carpet slippers.

"With a combined age of 71, logic says the veteran duo should be a fading force in the English game.

"Yet Scholes was... the star of last night's comfortable victory over newly-promoted Newcastle."

The praise heaped on the pair is understandable in one way, since they are brilliant. But in another way it is baffling, because they have been at least this good for a dozen years. Have people only just noticed?

Or is it the fact that they are still doing the business at an age when most footballers are turning to punditry, opening pubs or signing for MLS teams?

If so, what a bizarre form of reverse ageism.

Scholes has never relied on pace. Last night's wild challenge on Joey Barton shows he is just as accurate in the tackle as he has ever been - which is not at all.

So why would you expect him to fade as soon as he hits his mid-30s?

He still has the hunger, as well as the body of a man five years younger thanks to his near-monastic lifestyle.

Scholes deserves recognition, because he is a superb footballer. But he doesn't deserve special praise for being good and old at the same time.

So let's not give him patronising pats on the back like he is a pensioner who has managed to get dressed all by himself.

He is has been a brilliant footballer since roughly 1995. The fact that he is still great should surprise nobody.

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