Scholes and Fletcher are perfect partners
From Bryan Robson, to Paul Ince to Roy Keane, Sir Alex Ferguson has long been reliant on a midfield general. But the United manager who spent so long fruitlessly searching for a successor to Keane following the Irishman's acrimonious departure in 2005 believes Old Trafford has finally learned to live without the traditional enforcer that has typified his teams down the years. That was never more evident than last Sunday when Paul Scholes effortlessly controlled the centre of the park against a combative Liverpool midfield of Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles and Christian Poulson. While Robson et al would have rolled their sleeves up and prepared for a good old-fashioned dust-up, Scholes oozed class with every deft flick and rapier-like pass. That, combined with Darren Fletcher's tireless energy, Ferguson believes has helped United evolve into a team that can cope without the raw aggression of its midfield leaders of the past. Bryan Robson was an unbelievable player, said Ferguson. Unfortunately, when I came to the club he was 31. I wish I'd had him when he was 21. Roy Keane was a different kind of leader. He led by example whereas Robson managed the team on the pitch. But you cannot beat Scholes as a footballer. He is an unbelievable player and will always be considered one of the best of all time here. Impossible We don't lack leadership in our general game. Paul Scholes runs the midfield every game. Liverpool tried to man mark him last week impossible. We don't lack leadership in terms of the philosophy of our game. Fletcher is the closest Ferguson has come to a marauding midfielder since parting ways with Keane. After watching Eric Djemba-Djemba fail to establish himself at Old Trafford, while Owen Hargreaves' injuries have prevented him from becoming the lynchpin United had hoped upon his move from Bayern Munich in 2007, Fletcher's development has been a godsend. Even if he is not a carbon copy of Robson or Keane, he has emerged as one of United's most important players over the past two seasons and was a serious consideration when Ferguson came to choosing his next captain during the summer. The armband was eventually handed to Nemanja Vidic, but Ferguson did so in the knowledge that Scotland captain Fletcher would lead with or without the title of skipper. The subject of picking a captain was straightforward, he said. In the last two or three years Gary Neville has been the club captain, but as we know, he has had injuries so there is an inconsistency as to when he is in your team. For that reason we had to look elsewhere. We need a captain who will play every week. Because we have so many options in midfield, from time to time we change it around. Qualities Paul Scholes doesn't want to be captain. Darren Fletcher has leadership qualities, but we change the midfield a lot. With Nemanja Vidic, he just signed a new contract in the summer and will play all the time. If he is fit, he plays. While Ferguson would justifiably point to the trophies United have since Keane's exit as evidence that life goes on without the Irishman, hardcore supporters would still claim Old Trafford isn't the same without a swashbuckling general. Ferguson, though, throws up a number of alternatives when it comes to the greatest player in his time at the club. Robson was an incredible presence in the dressing room, he said. He was loved by the players and tactically very astute. Keane was a driving force, but neither were the best footballers. They had unbelievable qualities that made them great players, but the great players we've had in terms of real quality, you have to look at Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes. But to try to say who was the best of them all is very difficult. No player has run up and down the touchline in the Premier League as long as Giggs. He's done it since it started. His consistency and quality mark him down as the best player ever in the Premier League. He is an incredible player. Who is better, Scholes or Giggs? Have your say.
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