Manchester United beat Arsenal 1-0 at home tonight in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal courtesy of a strike from John O’Shea (who would have guessed!). But this isn’t about this year’s Champions League semifinals. It is about an event of event greater signifiance that happened 365 days ago. It was the night when a team of superstars — Messi, Eto’o, Deco, Iniesta, Xavi, Henry, Rijkaard* — were left reeling as if they knew not what hit them. Well, here is what hit them.
A year ago, this same day, slightly before 8 PM in Manchester, Paul Scholes unleashed a trademark powerful drive from his right foot from about 25 yards out towards the East Stand goal at Old Trafford. This fantabulous strike past a despairing Victor Valdes and into the top right corner was that one moment of magic that the champions of England needed to propel them one step closer to (eventual) European glory – a place in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
I have watched the video of this goal many hundred times, and each time, Paul Scholes climbs a notch higher in my estimation. The commentary was very good, and probably as a consequence of having watched this so many times, I’ve almost internalized it. Here are those “golden” words, describing that once-in-a-lifetime moment:
“Carrick… Ferdinand… first touch a little heavy… it will run though to Cristiano Ronaldo, and he will run at Barcelona… steps past Toure, but not past Zambrotta (and here, as Zambrotta’s half-clearance is being closed in upon by a galloping Paul Scholes, you can hear Old Trafford buzz increasingly in anticipation as Scholes readies to connect)… given straight to Paul SchOLESSSSSSSSSS! (here, the crowd crescendoes) WHAT ABOUT THAT! W-H-A-T ABOUT THAT! Fourteen minutes gone… breakthrough for Manchester United… an U-N-S-T-O-P-P-A-B-L-E shot from P-A-U-L Scholes!”
Here is the video. A great night. A great player.
* It is a measure of how desperate Rijkaard and Barcelona were to win / score that night that all three of Barcelona’s substitutions were strikers — Thierry Henry, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Bojan Krkic.
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