The Ginger Genius's Wait Is Over
Turin, April 1999. High drama: Manchester United overturn a two-goal deficit to advance into the Champions League final but lose two of their influential midfielders because of suspension: Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
After the game, all the talk was about Roy - not surprising considering he'd put in a superhuman effort to get the team into the final. Yet Keano's thoughts was for Scholes rather than himself if his claims are to be believed.
Since that year every disappointment in the Champions League was even more painful as it denied another opportunity for these two to get things right. Though Keano often said he got injured during the FA Cup final and therefore wouldn't have been able to play in Barcelona anyway, you could see in his efforts in the Champions League that that's what he craves most.
His maximalism which many say hurt the team in the final years probably originated in that fateful night in Turin: he wanted to get to that final badly and as another chance slipped away he became increasingly desperate. He wouldn't have risked another, more serious injury with rushing back to fitness for any other game than the semi-final second leg against Bayer Leverkusen. And it's so typical that he scored the goal that put United in front. Yet it was another opportunity missed.
Scholes, in the meantime, was as quiet as always. Did his job and did not talk about this disappointment. It was his disallowed goal that meant United were out against Porto in 2004 but his pain was not as evident as Keane's.
Eventually, the legendary Irishman went and everyone's thoughts turned to Scholes. Will he get the chance that Roy Keane was denied? When he suffered a career-threatening eye injury, the answer seemed to be a no.
So it's nothing short of magical that he scored a blinder that got us into the Champions League final. And though Fergie was criticised for being sentimental in his promise of a starting place for Scholes, the Ginger Genius merited his selection. And now he relishes the chance to finally end the years of personal pain - in a typically understated manner.
'It was a good night, really. The lads went out and won the game,' he told Sky Sports News, referring to the unforgettable Nou Camp final.
'I would have liked to have been involved, but it wasn't to be. You don't really feel a part of it when you have not played a part in the biggest game in the run, which is the final.
'It doesn't matter what anyone says, you know yourself that you have not played in the game that has won the trophy and the medals - if I had've played we might not have won, you never know.
'On the night I was really pleased that the lads played as they did and managed to win the game for us. But I wasn't a part of that and you have just got to live with it.'
Though nobody could claim that Scholes played no real part in the 1999 triump (just look at his goal at the San Siro, to cite the most obvious example) the wee man from Salford feels that way. But this time, he will definitely be a part of it - now we only have to win!
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