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16th Nov 2015

There’s little doubt over Paul Scholes’ greatest ever goal

Simon Lloyd

Paul Scholes notched up some memorable finishes in his time.

There was the the Bradford volley – allowing a flat David Beckham corner to drift across his body before letting fly from the edge of the area with his right foot.

Paul Scholes

There was the time when he rounded off a 32-pass sequence against Panathinaikos with a perfectly-measured chip.

Or that one against Villa – where he sent another volley crashing in off the underside of a crossbar.

Aston Villa v Manchester United

But it’s hard to argue that any of those could ever eclipse his strike against Barcelona in 2008 which sealed Manchester United’s passage into the European Cup Final.

Some will try and argue that, as aesthetically pleasing as it was, it wasn’t quite of the same calibre as some of his other strikes. But in terms of its meaning to United (and probably Scholes himself), it can’t be surpassed.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

There was a genuine feeling amongst United supporters very early in the season that this would be the year they’d win their third European Cup.

The starting eleven oozed class. Edwin Van Der Sar was shielded by a central defensive pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand – both in their prime. Owen Hargreaves’ lung-busting energy had been added to the composure of Carrick and Scholes in midfield.

And then there was the trio of Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

There’s little doubt that the season belonged to the young Ronaldo. After stepping up considerably in United’s 2006/07 campaign, he’d kicked on and hit new heights that year.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

The United supporters loved Ronaldo, especially because it was their club that had harnessed his raw talent and turned him into a world-beater. He was scoring goals for fun that year and, as is usually the way with an exciting player, Real Madrid were making early signals that it was their God-given right to take him to the Bernabeu.

Away from the field of play, his good-looks made him popular in other ways and, as is still the case, Ronaldo invested plenty of time in his image.

On the other hand there was Scholes – a man that had never given a sh*t about gelling his hair. Unassuming to the point where he was a complete polar opposite of his Portuguese team-mate, yet the United fans adored him in equal measure.

Barcelona v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

For all Ronaldo’s undoubted brilliance, in the two legs against Barcelona he’d simply not got going. During the first leg in at Camp Nou he’d missed a penalty and been stifled by his opponent’s tactics, which regularly saw two or three Barca players quickly close him down.

Ronaldo’s failure to put away that penalty meant the scores were level ahead of the second leg: cue a night of nerve-shredding tension for the majority of those at Old Trafford.

Ironically, it was one of Ronaldo’s failed dribbles after thirteen minutes that paved the way for Scholes to score the decisive goal. Quickly closed down by three Barca players, Ronaldo lost control only for an uncharacteristically nervy Gianliuca Zambrotta to misplace a pass.

Seizing upon the loose ball, Scholes afforded himself one touch to control before instantly thrashing at it with his right foot.

A good distance from goal, Scholes – whether intentionally or not – cut across the ball to produce just enough slice to make it drift away from the outstretched Victor Valdes.

The net bulged. Old Trafford roared. Camera lenses that projected the game to millions around the globe shook.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

For most of those crammed inside the stadium, the rest of the game dragged as Barca toyed with United without really finding a way to unpick the lock. Somehow, the home team held out.

Scholes’ strike was enough to take United to Moscow and earned him the chance to feature in his first European Cup Final having missed out in 1999 through suspension.

For all the flamboyance and brilliance of their young Portuguese star, it was Salford-born Paul who’d come up with the goods.