Back in may 2011, everyone thought they had seen the last of Paul Scholes walking down the tunnel onto the famous Old Trafford turf after a more than illustrious career. Our season had been hampered by injuries and at the turn of the year we were again asking the question ‘who’s going to replace Scholes?’
Then on the 8th January at the Etihad, our question was answered. The seven subs that day included Paul Scholes. ‘Paul Scholes, your having a laugh he’s retired last season you joker’ were the words in which I laughed down the phone to my friend as he told me United’s line-up as I was walking to watch the game. Then when I stepped in, my dream became a reality, Scholsey was back. Since that day United have dropped only 2 points in the league which was a remarkable comeback against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But one day we will have to live up to the fact that our famous little ginger genius will never play again. So then begs the question, who will replace him?
Paul Pogba– Pogba has been an influential part of United’s reserve team for the past two seasons but recent reports linking him to a move to Italian giants Juventus have casted a shadow over his future at United. Pogba is a tall, powerful and energetic midfielder who has been likened to Patrick Vieira. He is very similar to Scholes as he likes to sit back in front of the defence then make charging runs forward to support the attackers. He has a superb shot on him but one of the things in which himself and Scholes don’t have in common is their passing ability. Scholes has been labeled as one of the best passers in the world but unfortunately Pogba isn’t quite up there at the moment. But at the age that Pogba is at, he is still able to learn and if we do keep hold of him and tie him down to a big contract, then I’m sure he will turn out to be a massive player for United in the future.
Wesley Sneijder– United have been linked with the Dutchman for quite a long time and speculation once again says that United will be making a big for him in the summer. Sneijder is predominantly an attacking midfielder and therefore a playmaker. His passing ability is second to none but he lacks any defensive attributes. The signing of Sneijder could enable the likes of Cleverley and Carrick to become more dominant in the midfield.
Javi Martinez– Martinez is tipped as one of the hottest prospects in world football. He stood out in both games against Bilbao this season due to his immense versatility and his eye for a pass and even the odd powerful run down the middle. His height and power is also a bonus as he is a threat from set pieces. The versatility of Martinez is one of the best aspects of his game as he is able to play anywhere across the defence and in the centre of midfield just in front of the back line. But the big question is, will Bilbao let him go cheaply? The Bilbao team is made up of players from the Basque region so they will be looking to try and keep hold of their star players in the summer as the likes of De Marcos, Llorente and Herrera are all attracting interest from top European clubs just like Martinez. Personally I feel Martinez would be a perfect replacement for Scholes as he has got the physical attributes to settle in well to the style of play in which the Premier League offers.
Xavi– Barcelona midfielder Xavi has always been regarded as one of the best central midfielders in the world along side Scholes. There is not many differences between himself and Scholes apart from Xavi does have a better tackle succession rate. Xavi, like Scholes is coming to the end of his career but if United were able to secure his services for 2 or 3 years- and admittedly that’s a big ‘if’- then what he would bring to the club would be remarkable.
Leon Britton– January 2011 was a significant month for Britton. He returned to Swansea after a torrid 6 months at Sheffield United in which he was a regular in the centre of midfield but never really proved his worth. Since that, Britton has been a revelation for the Swans. In January 2012 stats were released which showed Britton to have the best pass completion rate in Europe with his passing accuracy at a massive 93.3%. Many people may be wondering, so how would he replace Scholes? His eye for a pass is unbelievable and something we struggled with at the start of the season was the ability to keep the ball when under pressure, this is something that Britton does with ease. Also, he would be a relatively cheap option but it would mean taking a risk. But is that a risk worth taking?
Lee Cattermole– Yes I know what you’re thinking, he’s not the best of footballers but what he has got is aggression and passion. I’ve always said that since Keane left, United have lacked aggression in midfield. We need a player who opponents fear when they go into a tackle with them. His disciplinary record isn’t very good but if he got that under control and started making clean but aggressive tackles then I don’t see why he couldn’t turn out to be a very good player for United. He is a fairly average player but if he was at a big club with world class players around him then there’s no reason for him to be a success story.
So its clear to see that finding a replacement for Scholes is going to be a very difficult one and a very fairly expensive one. Feel free to join in the discussion with me on Twitter @jonnyescott .