Sir Bobby Charlton: Why Paul Scholes is my favourite United star
Published 00:00 21/05/08 By Exclusive by David McDonnell
Sir Bobby Charlton has seen them all come and ago in over 50 years at Old Trafford.
From George Best and Denis Law to Eric Cantona and Roy Keane, Manchester United legend Charlton has played with and observed a glittering arrayof footballing talent at the world's biggest and most famous club.
But he has no hesitation in naming his favourite modernday United player, the one man hedearly hopes will be wearing a Champions League winner's medal around his neck in the Luzhniki Stadium tonight.
"I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football," said Charlton. "It's Paul Scholes.
"Many great players have worn the shirt of Manchester United. Players I worshipped, then lost with my youth in Munich.
"Players like Denis Law and George Best who I enjoyed so muchas team-mates and now, finally, players I have watched closely in the Alex Ferguson era. And in so many ways Scholes is my favourite. I love hisnous and conviction that he will find a way to win, to make the killer pass or produce the decisive volley.
"When a game reaches a vital phase, these qualities seem to comeout of his every pore. He's always on the ball, always turning on goal.
"He's always looking to bring other people into the action and if he loses possession you think he must be ill."
Charlton is thrilled Scholes - who missed United's 1999 Champions League triumph through suspension - finally has the opportunity to grace a European final and win football's elite club prize.
"I'm so pleased for Paul," said Charlton. "After what happened when he missed theBayern Munich final, he deserves to be in Moscow more than anyone.
"He loves the club, he loves his family and is a true professional.
It would be fitting for him to win the European Cup after the fantastic career he has had."
Just as Sir Alex Ferguson vividly recalls where he was whenhe first saw a 14-year-old Ryan Giggs playing and knew then he had to sign him, Charlton can never forget the first time he saw Scholes.
"It was a youth match at Sunderland," he said. "Paul had only touched the ball a few times before I realized the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.
"Most impressive of all, he had the talent to pass the ball throughtheeyeofaneedle, the most vital of as sets when you're trying to break down a packed defence. Paul's so good that it's always such a disappointment tome when I don't see his name on the team-sheet.
"I wonder 'who's going to do the clever stuff, the short, accurate passing that cuts open a defence?'
"Young stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney have, of course, displayed brilliant natural talent in recent seasons.
"But the key to a great career is a deeper understanding of your own skills and an ability to produce them at times of maximum pressure. In this, they have the perfect example in Paul."
Giggs, who will break Charlton's record of 758 United appearances in Moscow, agreed Scholes deserves to lift the European Cup after missing out in such cruel fashion nine years ago.
"I'm not telling the manager who to pick," said Giggs, "But Scholesy deserves it because he's such a great player.
"His form has been brilliant this season and his goal against Barcelona in the second leg of thesemi-final got us to Moscow.
"To play with someone like him is a privilege, because he does things others can't do.
"The disappointment of 1999 was massive for him, having played such an important part getting us to the final. I'm glad he's got another chance now."