I reckon the biggest concern for Sir Alex and the Manchester United faithful was not dealing with the heartache of Paul Scholes’ retirement; it was trying to move forward and adequately find a suitable replacement.
The longstanding Manchester United manager has come to the realization that he may never find someone competent enough to replicate Scholes. He was unique in every facet of the game, but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t willing to pick up right where he left off.
The Ginger Prince leaves a massive void in the United midfield that can’t easily be filled. What the England international brought to the fold went beyond the slick passing, the thunderous shot and crunching tackles.
It was his aura, that attitude, that leadership that set him apart. Finding someone to fill Scholes’ shoes will be a daunting task unwelcomed by United.
But to say there aren’t potential suitors to carry the torch would be an ignorant thought. Football is a game of factory-like production, and there are plenty of athletes plying their trade in the beautiful game that are gifted and capable enough to take on such a challenging task.
A name recently linked with the Red Devils, Wesley Sneijder would be a dream acquisition and for United fans, a lifeline as well. The Dutchman is world-class and what he can bring to this club is limitless.
But he is a desired figure who will have the attention of the richest owners come January. Quite frankly chasing after Sneijder would be a waste of time, because the inevitability of Manchester City, Chelsea and other mega-loaded clubs outbidding United seems more than likely.
Manchester United is a club rich with history, tradition and success and the greatest players in the world would kill to put on the shirt of the Red Devils. Any footballer would jump at the opportunity to join the team, so landing Sneijder is not critical.
And I don’t think United have to work too hard in finding a solid stand-in for Paul Scholes. In fact, they honestly don’t even need to look outside the club if they don’t want to.
Here is a list of players that have the potential to fill the wondrous and cherished boots of Paul Scholes, with options for Sir Alex internally and externally.
Luka Modric – The Croatian was the talk of the summer, as he urgently and desperately sought a way out of Tottenham. While Chelsea was his destination of choice, I imagine the prospect of playing under Sir Alex is very appealing to Luka Modric.
Modric is tricky, intelligent and creative enough to take the reigns of the United midfield, but he also is calm and collected for a central midfielder. You don’t see him lunging in on tackles or bantering with referees. He goes about his business on the pitch regardless of his surroundings and makes others around him better—like Scholes did.
People think of him as a locker room cancer due to his antics over the summer, but for the most part he is a respected character who could fit in seamlessly at Old Trafford. It might be hard to convince Harry Redknapp to part ways with his prized asset but anything can happen with the right price.
United also need some longevity in the center of park, and at 26 years old, Modric is hitting his prime and looks to have another decade of footy in him. His style of play is perfect for the run-and-gun Red Devils, who desperately need a link between the defense and their strikers.
The Red Devils should heavily consider bringing in the Croatian once the transfer window opens. If Sir Alex was able to pry Modric from the clutches of Spurs, right under the noses of Chelsea—well, that would make for some terrific drama.
Shinji Kagawa The 22-year-old Japanese footballer has experienced a meteoric rise to stardom after helping Borussia Dortmund capture the Bundesliga title last campaign. After turning in dazzling displays for the German affiliate, his price tag has shot up and teams have been monitoring the midfielder’s progress.
Kagawa is compact, quick and an adept dribbler who can carry a load for his team. Before he succumbed to injuries that sidelined him the second half of last season, he was Dortmund’s best player next to Nuri Sahin and I could only imagine the damage he could have continually inflicted.
He is not like Paul Scholes in many senses but to me that is good thing when trying to find a replacement. He possesses the abilities to create and distribute like Scholes but has pace, agility and on top of it. Imagine if Scholes was as swift as Kagawa…
The biggest concern with the youngster is his frailty, as he is not the most imposing player on the pitch. But it is hard to knock around something you can’t catch, and Kagawa has the thought process to know when to dribble, when to pass and when to run off his team mates at the perfect times, as did Paul Scholes.
It shouldn’t take outlandish money to land the Japanese international, but with the likes of Milan, Juventus and others are vying for his signature, United shouldn’t come up short. Kagawa has the makings of something special and could carve himself out a stellar career at Old Trafford.
Successful footballers nowadays exhibit some sort of versatility on the pitch. Javi Martinez is about as multi-faceted as you could as the Athletic Bilbao midfielder has played all over the park for the Basque outfit.
Martinez holds experience far past his years, and at 23 years old he has amassed almost 10 appearances for the Spanish National team, while captaining the Under-21’s last summer. He is rather big (6’ 3”) for a prototypical central midfielder but his athleticism is deceiving.
The young Spaniard is durable and he is hardly unavailable for selection. He has played 180 games for Bilbao since breaking into the first team and is a reliable fixture for his club and country.
Martinez may appear to lack the elusiveness and attacking qualities needed in a Scholes replacement, but once again looks can often fool the wisest. He has decent strike rate for a deep-lying midfielder and proves to be a crucial target on set-pieces and corners.
If United opt to purchase Javi Martinez as a replacement for Scholes, they will be taking a vastly different approach to their game. But Martinez is flexible and his proficiency on defense is even more touted than his contributions on offense. I think Martinez is a great fit because you shouldn’t expect to find a carbon copy of Scholes, so why not be resourceful and get a lot out of one man?
Like I said, sometimes you don’t need to dive into the transfer activity to find a replacement, and Tom Cleverly validates this reasoning.
The England international, before going down with an ankle injury, was a revelation for a rejuvenated United team that opted to go young. The triumph of the squad during the beginning of the season came down to the play of their inexperienced squad members, and Cleverly came into his own.
The 22-year-old can spray the ball, win his 50/50 challenges and is tough as nails, and obviously learned a thing or two in training from Scholes. They remind me so much of one another that it is eerie to say the least.
United should not rush their prodigious midfielder back too soon, because I foresee life at Old Trafford to be outstanding for the stalwart. His limited performances have been convincing and Sir Alex is not easily impressed.
So why go out and spend money when you don’t have to? Tom Cleverly is essentially Paul Scholes Jr., so utilize him and keep Clevs a Red Devil for life.
An often polarizing figure, Anderson’s inconsistency has frustrated the United faithful and for that I might get some flack for including him in this list. But when the Brazilian is on, he is pulsating and he can orchestrate attacks smoothly when he is up for it.
The problem with Anderson though is that you don’t know when he will show up. If Sir Alex can get the boy to adjust his attitude and prioritize a smidge, he has what it takes to lead this team and ultimately fill the Paul Scholes role.
Left-footed in nature but equally ambidextrous, the 23-year-old has had trouble staying on the field as of late. Injuries have derailed him of sorts but I refuse to rule out Anderson yet.
He has bags of potential and Sir Alex and his team mates know this. He struggles with confidence though and it is up to the Brazilian to mentally strengthen as he nears his February 2012 return.
I think Anderson, with the right guidance and preparation, can fill the Paul Scholes gap. He is simple, smart and selective with the ball at his feet and loves to play one-touch footy. Also, he has found a scoring touch recently and could definitely supply offensive help, just as Paul Scholes did when he patrolled the United midfield.
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