Did Paul Scholes underachieve relative to his talent?

JinnerJamie

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Most talented player of his generation.

Third most decorated player in the English game.

3rd in all time United appearances.

He’s underrated I think, not by United fans but the wider English football community. Gerrard and Lampard where never in the same class as Scholes and it irks me when they get lumped in there with him.

The only thing he ever underachieved at was international level but then again who didn’t?
 

Wonder Pigeon

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I do think it's interesting that the question is so easily dismissed on the basis of his long list of achievements or the fact that it's a team game. Even though they're both probably fair points, some people seem more readily inclined to ask if Ryan Giggs or Wayne Rooney underachieved in respect to their talents, even though they achieved everything Scholes did and more in the same team. Obviously many still do make these same arguments in response to the question being asked of Giggs/Rooney and again, probably correctly, but it seems like different biases creep in when the same question is asked of players with similar levels of success but different profiles.

Because those two were higher profile and more hyped in their youth and possibly because their off-the-pitch behaviour leaves them more open to critical eyes overall, it does seem to leave the door slightly more open to ask "could they have done more?" even though they did, you know, more than 90% of players ever.
 

RUCK4444

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Underrated. Genius.

Best midfielder of the Premier League era in my opinion. There are players who have reached levels close to him but he would be the first name on a midfield team sheet for me, and was for Fergie more often than not.

I don’t think he underachieved, certainly not domestically.

England should have realised what they had with him and built the team around him, without a doubt in my mind, if it meant benching Gerrard or Lampard or whoever else then it should have been so.
 

Red Devil 26

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Interesting thread. I was only at an age to truly appreciate Scholes as a player from 06 onwards when he was quite sensational playing in that deeper role. His performances in that 06-07 season is the best I can ever recall seeing from a Utd central midfielder (to re-iterate was too young to appreciate the likes of Keane in his pomp.) But why him playing deeper seemed to coincide with him ageing, as opposed to it being considered his best role was something I had always wondered myself.
 

amolbhatia50k

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Completely disagree.

Best CM I've seen in the PL.

Second best CM I've ever seen.

And taking into account longevity and consistency, the best Manchester United player I've seen.
 

BEST No7

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Dont agree. He was a magnificent player, no doubt about it. My favourite utd ever. These quotes you hear from former players, opponents etc... to me they confirm what I think. If anyone seen the Keane and Vieira: best of enemies show, Vieira had Scholes as the best United player he's faced. Which goes against the Scholes was WC after he dropped deeper 06 onwards roughly. Vieira wasn't there anymore...he was talking about the Scholes he faced before that. Henry says the same thing. Of course that's only there opinion but I think it holds alot weight. For me greatest CM the premier league has seen
 

BR7

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Worst player I’ve ever seen he was useless how anyone thought he was better than Jonathan greening is beyond me. C’mon OP man seriously greatest midfielder fullllllllll .
 

Raees

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I think the point here is the most critical in looking back at Scholes and his legacy. Scholes by definition was an anomaly in the English game. At a time teams played a rigid 4-4-2 with banks of players, Scholes was by definition a 'between-the-lines' player. Someone who could either play between the midfield and the striker up top to score goals and provide assists, or drop deep as a regista and dictate the game. In a weird way, he was the best of two magnificent European traditions, the Trequartista or #10 and the regista or #6. That's why he's so revered by people like Zidane, Xavi and Pirlo as a "complete player": he could do both of those roles that are radically different on par with the best in the world!

That also explains why he relatively under-achieved relative to his talent, and arguably so did United in Europe particularly in the late 90s. At a time when Italian teams in particular, were playing formations with a lot of players between the lines, we were still stuck to a 4-4-2 that dominated the English game. Ironically, we had the player that would have enabled us to control games but we didn't realize that until Carlos Quieroz came in and built a new side in the 2006-2008 period which tellingly is our most accomplished period in Europe by a margin.

To summarize: I would argue Scholes overachieved based on circumstances but underachieved on raw talent as he was world-class despite playing a box-to-box role that didn't suit his style. If he had been played either as a Regista or permanently as a second striker he would have gone down as an ATG, and the late-90s United as a side would have also gone down in history the way the Barca team of 2009-2011 did. It took Fergie way to long to realize that our style needed to change to succeed in Europe (mainly because it was so successful at home). And then he bought Veron instead of realizing he had the answer in front of him...
If I could like this I would - tremendous post.
 

Snuffkin

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The plaudits he gets from players are an insult. He should have been a zidane instead he turned out to be a hipsters choice. He had more talent in his little toe than Keane had in his whole body, but I never saw him grab a game by the scruff of the neck like Keane did. We had bad midfield problems when Keane went to Celtic and Scholes was still playing. A player who was purported to be as good as him should have shored things up. His attempts at commentary and footballer management have shown him to be very ordinary.
 

Bwuk

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If he was playing today he’d be the best midfielder in the world.
 

davidmichael

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Considering he wasn’t originally a midfielder when he came through at United I think going on to become either the best or second best (him or Keane) midfielder in Premier League history (no one can convince me Gerrard or Lampard were better) whilst being one of the most decorated players in European history and having Zidane and Xavi say you’re the best of your generation isn’t underachieving in the slightest.

If Scholes was French or Spanish and won the same accolades and produced the same career for Barca or Real he’d have won Balon D’Or at least once (Owen managed it) and been heralded as a top 10 of all time midfielder, I tend to trust the judgement of people like Zidane or Xavi and all the other world class players that heap praise on Scholes than us lot.
 

Shamana

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Well as one of the most decorated players of all time I would say no. In terms individual achievments maybe. He is one the best long passer ever if not the best and embodies the footbball brain like Xavi. He was a great finisher and a had amazing shot. Still he wasn't a natural dribbler, was an awfull tackler. I never got why he wasnt a set piece specialist when Beckham left considering his ability to strike a ball and aversion to take penalties seemed to come down to his mentality. If he looked as good as Beckham though and was a off-the pitch celebrity he would have been rated much higher.
 

Roane

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I don’t think I’m permitted to post GIFs as a newbie but insert dude eating popcorn GIF to this ridiculous thread.
Why? It's a really good discussion point

Allan Shearer has records for scoring but he underachieved in terms of honours his talent merited
 

cyril C

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At Domestic competition level, may be an extra EPL trophy, but to be fair, he has achieved more than enough.

At European competition level, perhaps an extra CL trophy, but this is more about the entire team, not Scholes' deficiency.

At international level, well, English fans should comment.

At personal level, perhaps, but anyone competing with Zidane, Messi, CR, Beckham, Stevie G.....

In fact, had Scholes improved on his defensive capability, such as his sliding tackle, he might become all-rounded and might win us a few more trophy....
 

Bastian

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Completely agree but I do think that out of all of Fergies players in the 1999 side... Scholes was the player who was not at his optimal performance under Fergie from a tactical perspective. Scholes hit his tactical peak during the 06-08 era but he was a diminished player in many respects outside of dictating the tempo.

I can’t imagine Beckham being as effective outside of Fergies set up, likewise Keane and Giggs but Scholes potentially might have hit an even higher peak had he developed in Spain or Italy.

Goals wise he might have scored less goals but his overall legacy potentially might have been even more reputable.

I think the Veron signing in some respects robbed Scholes of some vital years as a central midfield playmaker at his pomp although I agreed with Fergie that we needed a extra body in the midfield. Perhaps in hindsight someone more attacking - leaving Scholes deeper would have led to a further CL victory?

Keane Scholes
Beckham Nedved Giggs​

As a 5... arguably could have brought the best out of Scholes imo.
Those two would also have proven world class in any other top side, easy.
 

Red Stone

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The only thing missing in Scholes' career was a competent England manager. He got shafted on the international level more than any other player I can think of. 66 caps mostly out of position is a disgrace for a guy who was one of the best players in the Premier League for about 15 years.
 

OrcaFat

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The plaudits he gets from players are an insult. He should have been a zidane instead he turned out to be a hipsters choice. He had more talent in his little toe than Keane had in his whole body, but I never saw him grab a game by the scruff of the neck like Keane did. We had bad midfield problems when Keane went to Celtic and Scholes was still playing. A player who was purported to be as good as him should have shored things up. His attempts at commentary and footballer management have shown him to be very ordinary.
Eh?

We scored countless late goals as a result of Scholes literally taking control of games and forcing the opposition back, strangling them, exhausting them.

He was influential throughout games but the last 20 mins he would be on the ball relentlessly and would gradually move the game up the pitch and would eventually be dictating from near the D.

Keane was brilliant too, in different ways, and it’s hard to split them but Scholes was the greater attacking talent. Many of the goals and assists our other players got were really owed to Scholes. If there were statistics for the guy who “assists” the “assist” Scholes would score very highly.

Internationally is a different question. When he retired he had been getting a lot of stick for not scoring. Ericsson rated him the best he worked with but Sven’s problem was he had three very good players for one spot in a 4-4-2 and decided to play all three of them - the team was lopsided and we lost every time we played anyone decent. Would have been brave to leave out Gerrard and Lampard but that’s what he should have done. Hargreaves - Scholes would have been the ticket. In that scenario Scholes (and England) might have achieved more.
 

OrcaFat

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The only thing missing in Scholes' career was a competent England manager. He got shafted on the international level more than any other player I can think of. 66 caps mostly out of position is a disgrace for a guy who was one of the best players in the Premier League for about 15 years.
Yeah! I just tried to post something similar but cocked it up.
 

forevrared

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I think he was one of the most naturally talented players we've ever had, but he always struck me as one of those people whose chosen profession came so easy that he didn't have to work overly hard, so he didn't.

You constantly hear stories about the likes of Ronaldo and Rashford and those type showing up early and being the last one off the training pitch - but maybe it's just that Scholes' skill set didn't require the level of athleticism or practice that the others needed to be great. I don't mean to admonish him in anyway, because he's in my top 5 all-time favorite players at United, but I can understand why this question gets asked. Definitely a unique sort of player.
 

POF

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What a crazy thread! My favourite part is the insinuation that Fergie didn't utilise him well or make the best of his talents! That is gold!

Fergie set a midfield up so that a short, slow, asthmatic kid with no athleticism, defensive instincts or any ability to tackle was able to play central midfield in a 4-4-2 in possibly the best midfield combination in Premier League history.

Why didn't Scholes play as a deep lying playmaker in 1999? Because Keane was far better at controlling tempo than him at that stage of his career and Scholes was useless defensively. With maturity, he developed his understanding of controlling the game and his positioning defensively and in that time period the game changed and became less physical which allowed him to play deeper.

It's all well and good having these quotes from Xavi and Zidane about how great he was but Scholes is quoted as saying that throughout his career the only genuine interest he had from an overseas club was from Inter, who were a poor team at the time. Strange that for one of the greatest players in EPL history.

I loved Scholes as a player. I always thought he was extremely underrated during his career, but the overrating he's had since he retired is incredible.

Technically, he was excellent but he didn't really have the personality or leadership quality to take ownership of a game. He developed the ability to control tempo later in his career but even then when he was the main man in midfield, it was a team built on a top class defence and the individual brilliance of the forwards. Midfield was the weak link of the team.
 

shahzy

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If Xavi said that then he is being modest. The best central midfielder of the past 15-20 years is himself. Scholes was brilliant but Xavi was even better imo. Same mould as Scholes but he did things a bit better
 

Infordin

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Keane Scholes
Beckham Nedved Giggs
There were rumours about Nedved to Manchester United around 2000, weren’t there?

I honestly think that if Nedved did move to United in 2000, they would have won at least one more UCL trophy from 2000-2003. As good as the United side was at the time, they lacked someone as dynamic and powerful as Nedved in the team. Nedved could have been the missing link, that last piece in the puzzle.
 

Caesar2290

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On of the pitfalls of threads like these is that they judge a player based solely on his ability.

A player is usually a sum of 2 parts: his ability and his personality.

Look at Fernandes and the impact he had since he arrived. A great player made even better by his leadership abilities. The same can be said about Roy Keane.

Sadly Paul being a shy lad lacked the personality to assert himself on the team. He would also go missing in a lot of the big games.. And for me that will be the reason that he will be viewed by everyone as a level below Xavi

Had he had 50% of Keane's personality, he would have been viewed as one of the best MF players on par with Plaitini and Zico.

If Xavi said that then he is being modest. The best central midfielder of the past 15-20 years is himself. Scholes was brilliant but Xavi was even better imo. Same mould as Scholes but he did things a bit better
Xavi had a bit more leadership in him. Also having a system that played to your strengths helped.

By contrast Paul was always shunted out of position to accommodate "the system"(our 1999 team and the 2001-2005 teams) or the "better" players(ie: the England setup with Lampard and Gerrard)

People also forget that pre-Guardiola Xavi was having an inconsistent career. There were rumors of him wanting to leave. Ironically we were heavily linked with him at the time.

Source:
 

Raees

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Those two would also have proven world class in any other top side, easy.
Yes of course but they were also tailor made for a Fergie 4-4-2 - so there was no real sense of ‘wastage’. They could have been as good elsewhere but not ‘better’ but that’s just an opinion.

@Caesar2290 - all good points and I did allude to that point in the OP that Scholes’ mindset was a weird one and inferior to that of a Xavi who eventually embraced becoming a superstar regista ... in stark contrast to his earlier days where he had an inferiority complex after being seen as Guardiola’s heir.
 
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devilish

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He actually overachieved big time.

A- He was a small kid who developed asthma. Harrison once said in an interview that coaches from other clubs used to mock him for insisting on such short player who could barely play football for more then 15 minutes
B- He was a striker at youth academy level and he moved in midfield when he was already in his early 20s. Not only did he master the role but he became one of the best in it.
C- Once he started growing older he reinvented himself from an attacking midfielder into a deep lying playmaker. That added at least half a decade to his career.

Put Scholes into Pogba's body/skillset and you'll have someone who would be second only to Diego Armando Maradona.
 

Sky1981

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Scholes is better best because xavi said so.

It's so cringey. He's throwing a compliment, which is complimentary coming from xavi but let's not use it as "xavi says so it must be true"

Scholes for me is underrated and overrated at the same time. Those that doesnt rate him kinda tend to think he just a midfield. Those that rates him seems to think he's pirlo and platini rolled into one.

For me scholes is a brilliant midfielder, suits our tactics to a tee, and the whole chemistry with giggs beckham butt keane carrick plays to his strenght.

But goat category midfielder he's not.
 

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What a crazy thread! My favourite part is the insinuation that Fergie didn't utilise him well or make the best of his talents! That is gold!

Fergie set a midfield up so that a short, slow, asthmatic kid with no athleticism, defensive instincts or any ability to tackle was able to play central midfield in a 4-4-2 in possibly the best midfield combination in Premier League history.

Why didn't Scholes play as a deep lying playmaker in 1999? Because Keane was far better at controlling tempo than him at that stage of his career and Scholes was useless defensively. With maturity, he developed his understanding of controlling the game and his positioning defensively and in that time period the game changed and became less physical which allowed him to play deeper.

It's all well and good having these quotes from Xavi and Zidane about how great he was but Scholes is quoted as saying that throughout his career the only genuine interest he had from an overseas club was from Inter, who were a poor team at the time. Strange that for one of the greatest players in EPL history.


I loved Scholes as a player. I always thought he was extremely underrated during his career, but the overrating he's had since he retired is incredible.

Technically, he was excellent but he didn't really have the personality or leadership quality to take ownership of a game. He developed the ability to control tempo later in his career but even then when he was the main man in midfield, it was a team built on a top class defence and the individual brilliance of the forwards. Midfield was the weak link of the team.
I believe that a Juventus manager or scout came out at one point about this and said that it wasn't that they weren't interested, its that they knew that they had no chance of the move so they didn't even bother.
 

RedRoseTyke

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He only 'under achieved' at international level, mainly by not being picked by bozo managers and when picked, used out of position.

If we'd had a decent England coach with any vision, he would have built a team around Paul.
 

Web of Bissaka

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This is actually a good thread - dare to point out things critically about Scholes which tend to be downplayed, and generally will get mocked as we see here except those who really ready OP carefully and think about it well.

Scholes is a really peculiar player.
If we only look at his talent alone, he should be among the best and definitely should be the "leading man" in any team. But then at United nor international level, he didn't or rather chose to not be one despite easily capable to be that kind of player. He's not even the "second" player leading the team. It's down to his personality in making others shine more than him while he is easily satisfied doing his part, away from the limelight, hiding in the shadow so to speak. He was never the worse player not almost always seek to be the best, but often among the very best performers, except there's almost always one player that shines more than him, often this is by his designed. There are only very few games where arguably we can say he's motm, by popular votes. He will also tend to step-up only when it matters, more of a team player that makes the team perform more, and not to use the team to make himself looks more good.

Liken this with anime, then he is like Kuroko :Donly fewer people in comparison will appreciate and notice his importance to the team, and genius with football.

Only looking at his talent, I think he underachieved. Because he can easily become the "main guy".

But if also consider his personality and other "issues", then I would say he over-achieved.
Credit should also be given to the manager SAF himself. Managing this strange player with physical "problems/challenges" and certain "mindset/mental state" to achieve those top achievements he made is just great. I bet different manager would find problems in how to manage Scholes. He was very delicate. SAF also never scolded Scholes, many players have came out to reveal about that. I think most manager would not risk playing the kid Scholes at all especially in this physical league, and would just give up (this is before he build up his good reputation at United).

TLDR/
Purely talents -- underachieved.
Overall, consider all -- overachieved.
 

The holy trinity 68

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Under rated by fans of every other club and over rated by most man united fans.

He was an amazing player and it is an insult seeing social media top 10 CM’s of the PL era etc and seeing Scholes near the bottom behind Keane, Gerrard, Lampard, Viera, KDB. For me Scholes was better than all of them, but I would still probably have Keane in my team before Scholes.

United fans on the other hand tend to go a bit OTT and speak about him like he was better than Bobby Charlton or Johann Cruyff.
 

POF

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I believe that a Juventus manager or scout came out at one point about this and said that it wasn't that they weren't interested, its that they knew that they had no chance of the move so they didn't even bother.
With Scholes, the majority of the praise he got was in hindsight or towards the end of his career when he was past his best.

When Juve were a real force under Lippi, he was asked which English player he would take to add to his team and he said "Roy Keane of Manchester United". He was a better football coach than geography teacher!

But that sort of quote happened often about Keane, Beckham or Giggs but never about Scholes until he was at the end of his career.

I always felt he was really underrated and deserved more accolades but people have certainly made up for it after his career finished. It's a really strange anomaly.

There isn't another footballer that is discussed in the "world class" bracket after his career finished that was so under the radar throughout his career.

I don't think there would ever have been a big United or England match when the pundits before the game would discuss the key players who would decide the game, where the key United or England player would have been Scholes. Could you say the same about Xavi, Zidane or Pirlo?
 

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A nearly perfect football career......i just think he should have scored few more goals.
Yes these rather left his game which was surprising given how cleanly he struck the ball and his early attacking instincts.
 

fps

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With Scholes, the majority of the praise he got was in hindsight or towards the end of his career when he was past his best.

When Juve were a real force under Lippi, he was asked which English player he would take to add to his team and he said "Roy Keane of Manchester United". He was a better football coach than geography teacher!

But that sort of quote happened often about Keane, Beckham or Giggs but never about Scholes until he was at the end of his career.

I always felt he was really underrated and deserved more accolades but people have certainly made up for it after his career finished. It's a really strange anomaly.

There isn't another footballer that is discussed in the "world class" bracket after his career finished that was so under the radar throughout his career.

I don't think there would ever have been a big United or England match when the pundits before the game would discuss the key players who would decide the game, where the key United or England player would have been Scholes. Could you say the same about Xavi, Zidane or Pirlo?
The others each won a World Cup which really meant they were looked for on the pitch more by commentators. Zidane was actually often very pretty on the pitch while achieving little though Pirlo and Xavi are closer to a Scholes type and couldn’t achieve anything without great players around him. The praise for Pirlo and Xavi, and Scholes, seems similarly dependent on team set up, and all their reputations similarly burgeoned later in their career. I remember the match where Pirlo “passed England to death”. It still had to go to penalties.
 
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Scriblerus

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My favourite player of the Ferguson era. Beckham Keane Scholes Giggs was a magnificent combination. Wasted by England because of the cult of Gerrard and Lampard, who really couldn't play together as both wanted to get forward whenever. Should have been Scholes in the middle every time, but he needed someone next to him who could break up the opposition, and neither of those two had the tactical discipline to do it.
 

POF

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The others each won a World Cup which really meant they were looked for on the pitch more by commentators. Zidane was actually often very pretty on the pitch while achieving little though Pirlo and Xavi are closer to a Scholes type and couldn’t achieve anything without great players around him. The praise for Pirlo and Xavi, and Scholes, seems similarly dependent on team set up, and all their reputations similarly burgeoned later in their career. I remember the match where Pirlo “passed England to death”. It still had to go to penalties.
It was nothing to do with that. It was because they were talismanic players who were pivotal to the team's success and how the team played.

Xavi was always in Barcelona's top 2 players and the key man for Spain. He was the embodiment of how both teams played. Pirlo was the fulcrum of that Milan team under Ancelotti with the midfield diamond and seen as a key element of the Juve and Italy teams.

Zidane (while I believe was massively overrated) was always seen as the marquee player or key attacking weapon for Juve, Real and France.

For United, in the title battles vs Arsenal it was Keane vs Vieira or Van Nistelrooy vs Henry. In the treble winning season it was Yorke and Cole or Beckham's delivery. In the next great United side it was the defensive unit and Ronaldo/Rooney in attack.

He was a really good player over a long period of time but was never the key man, a leader or the talisman for any of his teams.
 

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I loved watching the guy. The way he transitioned from being a goal scoring central midfielder to a deep lying playmaker was brilliant. One of my favourite things was watching Scholes control the game from that deep lying midfield role. No one could take the ball off him. He'd just pass his way around you.