Paul Scholes reveals his three toughest midfield opponents, with Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira among them… but who are the two VERY surprising stars the United maestro hated playing against?
- Paul Scholes revealed the three toughest Premier League stars he played against
- Scholes put down Robbie Savage, Patrick Vieira and Pape Bouba Diop on his list
- Scholes says they were ‘big’ and ‘quick to close him down’ at Manchester United
- The 47-year-old featured 718 times for the Red Devils and won 11 top flight titles
Paul Scholes revealed the three toughest Premier League stars he played against during his time at Manchester United.
The former United midfielder featured 718 times for the Red Devils and won 11 top-flight titles, three FA Cups and two Champions Leagues during his 19-year career at the club.
His famous range of passing, intelligence and tenacity has seen him go down as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, with even the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Xavi hailing Scholes as a generational talent. But Scholes has admitted that certain players gave him big problems – and two of them are perhaps surprising choices.
While Scholes’s naming of Patrick Vieira, the enforcer in Arsenal’s midfield during the height of their great rivalry with United in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is no shock, his other two choices played for clubs of far lesser stature.
Paul Scholes revealed the three toughest Premier League stars he played against
The former Manchester United midfielder featured 718 times for the Red Devils and won 11 top flight titles, three FA Cups and two Champions Leagues during his 19 years at the club
As well as Vieira, Scholes said in comments from last year which have resurfaced, that his other two toughest Premier League opponents were Robbie Savage and Papa Bouba Diop.
The 47-year-old – who retired in 2013 as United’s third-highest ever appearance holder, behind Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs – explained the reasons why he chose those three.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5’s Savage Social show, he said: ‘When I played central midfield I like to go into games thinking, “I just want to have all the time in the world here, just nobody around me, just find a little bit of space and pass the ball around.”
‘Then you play against people like you [Savage]. An absolute nuisance, trying to close you down dead quick. I don’t want that, I just want it nice and relaxed.
Scholes says playing against the likes of Robbie Savage (right), Patrick Vieira and Papa Bouba Diop made life most difficult for him at Old Trafford
Speaking of Patrick Vieira (right), Scholes said: ‘You think you’ve got the ball, and the next minute he nicks it over your head, he was a clever player as well’
‘The way I played I didn’t really have to beat people or be stronger, quicker than the other person.
‘I suppose Patrick Vieira, you play against him, he is so long, he is so big. You think you’ve got the ball, and the next minute he nicks it over your head, he was a clever player as well.
‘There’s one more that people won’t think of. We used to play against Portsmouth. Do you remember Papa Bouba Diop? Big, massive. They used to call him “the Wardrobe”.
‘You get involved physically with him and you’re wasting your time. I always found him awkward to play against. He wasn’t a Vieira, of course he wasn’t, but he still had talent.’
Scholes says that Senegalese midfielder Diop was ‘awkward to play against’ due to his size
Scholes and Vieira go in for a typically tough tackle during a clash between United and Arsenal
Savage graduated from United’s academy alongside Scholes but, unlike the most celebrated members of the Class of 92 such as Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, he was let go without playing for the first team.
He went on to carve out a career as a notoriously tenacious, hard-working and tough tackling midfielder with a talent for winding up opponents, playing in the top flight for Leicester, Birmingham, Blackburn and Derby, and winning 39 caps for Wales.
Diop was a defensive midfielder for Fulham, Portsmouth and Wesat Ham in the Premier League, although his most famous moment in football came at the 2002 World Cup, when he scored the winning goal for Senegal in the opening match of the tournament, a shock 1-0 win over reigning champions France.
Tragically, Diop died at the age of 42 last November after a long period of illness. It was reported that he had been suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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