“You couldn’t get near him.”
Manchester United fans have, over the last seven years, become increasingly desensitised to the mediocrity in front of them.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side laboured to a 1-0 win over winless West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, the only surprise was that the Baggies didn’t pop up with a late equaliser to prolong United’s Old Trafford misery.
Head back a few years and the club’s supporters perhaps didn’t appreciate just how good they had it for a while.
There was a time, for example, when United had Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes in the same team.
Rooney knew how good they were. In fact, Rooney was so aware of his own talents that he felt he could have played for Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona team.
Rooney was also deeply appreciative of being given the chance to share a pitch with Ronaldo.
At United, Ronaldo wasn’t quite the impeccable footballing machine he became at Real Madrid, but there was a clear consensus that he was heading for the top.
However, while Rooney believes that Ronaldo has proceeded to become one of the two greatest players of all time – along with, you guessed it, Lionel Messi – he has explained why he rated Scholes ahead of the Portuguese winger at Old Trafford.
Scholesy was brilliant – Rooney
“Scholesy, I think, obviously Ronaldo has gone on, him and Messi, to probably be the best two players to ever play the game,” Rooney told the UTD Podcast.
“But I just think at the time, Scholesy was brilliant.
“The things he could do with the ball, he obviously weren’t the quickest but he was so sharp you couldn’t get near him.
On the eve of a #UCL match against Turkish opponents… 🇹🇷
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 23, 2020
“I remember knowing that at the back end of my career I’d be going back into midfield so I was almost studying him and watching him in training and games.
“It was brilliant for me, first hand, to watch him and learn.”
Rooney certainly did learn from Scholes. Towards the end of his time at United, you could see flashes of Scholes in him; the cultured touch into space, the manner in which he struck a heat-seeking diagonal pass out to a full-back.
They were both classy players with exceptional footballing brains.
Rooney went on to explain that, in terms of understanding on the pitch, he connected most effectively with Ryan Giggs.
“I’d say more Giggsy I had that,” he said.
“Giggsy would give the ball quite a bit, but it was always trying to play us in, and I loved that. I wouldn’t mind players giving the ball away trying things.
“Scholesy was more about controlling the game for us, he was brilliant at things that the fans probably won’t see.”