Scholes & Hargreaves – Time to Say Goodbye?
Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves. Six years and 631 Manchester United appearances separate the two midfield maestros, but to the extreme misfortune of the latter, that is not the only thing that is different. Aside from the obvious difference in appearance; Scholes’s distinctive short ginger hair and scruffy appearance compared to the Canadian’s sleek, curly locks and pulled up socks, Paul Scholes has not suffered persistent, possible career ending injuries to the extent that his midfield colleague Hargreaves has.
Both players have been key in the teams they have represented – Scholes with England and United and Hargreaves with England, Bayern Munich and, whenever possible, United too. Hargreaves’s gritty, hard-working, disciplined and precise attitude that helps him run the midfield like an engine when in top form and free from injuries has been starting to run out of petrol and chug to a halt for a while now. Those injuries have taken their toll on the 30 year-old, and as soon as he has recovered from one, he picks up another. It is pure, unrivalled footballing bad luck.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that we will not see Hargreaves play for Manchester United again this season, and that, regrettably could mean that we will never see Hargreaves play for United again, as his contract expires at the end of this season. Referring to a possible contract extension, Sir Alex said, in an unusual indecisive manner; “I don’t know what is going to happen.”
Talks with David Gill have been held, but that is all they are – talks – nothing more. It is understandable that Ferguson is unsure over Hargreaves’s future. The player himself, or probably even his doctor are unsure over his future. His body, his injuries are just so unpredictable that a new contract would be a big risk, and one that could end up devastating an already shattered Hargreaves.
Ferguson concluded, “We have to make a decision.” Indicating, rather hopefully that Hargreaves has something to cling to. There may yet be some optimism, some light at the end of the injury ravaged tunnel, the tunnel that Hargreaves has so often walked down, or hobbled down to receive some treatment. Sir Alex knows, as we all do, that if Hargreaves were to be free from his injuries, he would be a Manchester United regular, and would be driving the team forward every week to success, much like he did in his double winning first season at Old Trafford.
Scholes has been far from injury free himself, suffering blurry vision in the 05/06 season which ruled him out for a while, as well as knee ligament damage late in 2007 which saw him miss a good few months. But Scholes’s end is not coming about because of injuries, but rather age, the thing that one day affects us all. Ryan Giggs is apparently immune from this thing called “age”, but Scholes is not so lucky, and in a recent rare interview, the 36 year-old reiterated the uncertainty surrounding his future; “I really don’t know what I am going to do yet. I’ve got these games to think about now and I will decide from there.”
United are already looking for a replacement, with rumours circulating everywhere about the future of United’s midfield, as to whom, or what will replace the passing, inspirational expert that is Paul Scholes. His ability, much like Hargreaves, in the past has been severely underrated, but those who truly admire the beautiful side of football, the precision perfect cross-field passes, the delightful dinks over the defence, the astounding forward thinking vision and the tenacity of a little man in love with football, will understand how truly great Scholes has been.
It isn’t everyday that a footballer is called the “greatest player of his generation” by none other than Zinedine Zidane. Scholes’s age has limited his starts this season, and unfortunately, it is something that we will have to begin to get used to if he decides to hang up those legendary boots that have graced countless football pitches all over the world representing Manchester United. Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley may be his last Manchester derby, but it is by far, one of the most important.
Hargreaves may not have a starring role, but Scholes sure as hell will, and who knows, when he walks out onto that Wembley pitch and is greeted by cheers of 80,000 football fans, he may be overwhelmed by the great occasion and sway his mind into staying at his club for just one more year. His future is in his hands, but whatever the decision, he will have the support of Manchester United fans and footballing fans everywhere.
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