The midfield has been an area that has been under intense scrutiny from supporters, pundits and anyone else who has an opinion on football. From the success of the Keane – Scholes partnership to the disappointment of the Carrick – Fellani partnership, in this series I have titled DMM (Dissecting Manchester’s Midfield) I will try my best to analyse the Manchester United midfield. I will discuss how over the years the Manchester United midfield has changed and why we suffer from the problems we suffer from now.
In this post I will be focusing on the Scholes and Keane partnership, and why it was so successful! It is part 1 of a 3 part series. To keep up to date, subscribe using your e-mail.
Over the years Manchester United has been blessed to have the opportunity to field some great midfield partnerships. However undoubtedly the greatest midfield pairing Manchester United have played in the Premiership era is one involving Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
Together they lead Manchester United through one of their most successful periods in their illustrious history. Roy Keane a fiery Irishman and Paul Scholes, a shy Englishman. They were on paper a mismatch but on the field they complemented each other like nothing else.
Keane was a Box-To-Box Midfielder, and was undoubtedly one of the best ones of the Premiership ear. He was forever nipping at the heels of the opponent and his no non-sense attitude to the game was shown through his robust challenges. He continuously broke up play and provided the physicality to the Manchester United midfield. His strength coupled with his endless stamina meant United were rarely over run or out muscled in the middle of the park, something that is now common place.
Despite not being as technically gifted as his partner, Keane was an astute passer and his challenges were well timed, mostly! The technical part of his game is heavily underrated, mainly because his partner was one of the best technicians of his generation. However his defining characteristic was his love for the club. Roy Keane’s passions sets him apart from everybody else. On the pitch his passion and fiery temper motivated the team and it resulted in them grinding out essential victories or over turning seemingly impossible deficits.
His endless energy and love for the club were, I think epitomized in the 1999 Champions League Semi-Final when Manchester United faced a Juventus side that could boast of Zidane and Deschamps in their midfield. With two quick fire goals from Filippo Inzaghi Manchester United’s treble dream looked to be in tatters. With Keane picking up a booking that would keep him out of the final, were United to pull off a miracle, it was meant to be a nightmare game.
However being the man he was, Keane refused to give up and lead the revival himself by scoring a captains goal in the 24th minute. It was a night to remember in Turin as even the hostile Juventus fans applauded Keane’s performance. They recognised that his passion and desire to win was truly unparalleled. United went on to complete their famous treble after an equally memorable against Bayern Munich.
Paul Scholes on the other hand, who incidentally also missed the final due to suspension, was an altogether different player. He started off his career as a striker in his early career however he found his place, as a No.10 playing off the striker. This is a position where he flourished due to his ability to score from outside the box and his exceptional vision.
As he took a step back again, he found himself in the center of the park, in the midfield engine room. He played the regista role, sitting in front of the defense. This is where Paul Scholes became recognised as the greatest midfielder of his generation.
In the regista role, Paul Scholes was able to dictate the tempo of the game. He could slow it down, speed the game and play it according to what suited Manchester United. He did this by dominating possession. Paul Scholes never lost possession. It meant the opposition were forever chasing the ball and were tiring themselves out.
It was not simply luck that Manchester United scored late in games! Paul Scholes dominated possession and thus tired out the opponents. In the latter stages of the game when exhaustion became a more prominent issue, the pacy wide players could run in behind the opposition and carve out opening. because they now had the extra extra space and the stamina advantage over their opponents.
However they also got the early pass from Scholes. Due to his exceptional vision Scholes could spot the pass earlier than anyone on the pitch. This meant as the wingers received the ball the full backs had less time to adjust and react. As a result pacy players such as Valencia flourished as they were able to run right past exhausted and out of position full backs.
One of the most celebrated aspects of Paul Scholes’s game is his passing. He was an admirer of the simple pass, and said it was the most effective option most of the time. He said it allowed the team to keep possession successfully and allowed them time to carve out openings. This is not to say his passing was simplistic! Paul Scholes could and often did pick out the perfect cross field diagonal that would cut open the tightest of defenses within seconds. He was in essence the ‘complete midfielder’ according to Zidane and ‘the best midfielder of his generation’ according to Guardiola. Our midfield maestro never had to speak for himself, people around him, did it for him.
Why Were Scholes and Keane So Successful Together?
Their success came from the complete package they offered. Keane was the all action ‘box to box’ midfielder who covered every single blade of grass. On the other hand Scholes was the artist, he set the tempo of the game from the very first minute and dictated it to the very last. As discussed above they brought to completely versions of the ideal midfielder to the Manchester United midfield. Together they worked like clockwork, however in 2005 when Keane was forced out of the club a gaping void was left in the middle of the park, one that still remains.
Thanks for reading this post. It is part 1 of a 3 part series. In part 2 I will be dissecting the Scholes and Carrick partnership. To keep up to date with with the series and to receive your Exclusive Manchester United Wallpaper Pack simply subscribe using your e-mail.