Man United: Bruno Fernandes vs Scholes ?

The sight of a player celebrating wildly in front of the Stretford End while adorned in the famed no 18 shirt is one that will never get old for supporters.

For two decades, it was Paul who would delicately knit together some of United’s most memorable goals under Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as scoring stunners of his own. These days, it’s who has stepped into the breach.

United have truly been blessed with an array of attacking talent operating in midfield over the years, with Scholes undoubtably a true Premier League great. The ginger-haired metronome endeared himself for both club and country with his breathtaking passing range and fearlessness in the challenge.

And although it is far too early to place Fernandes on a similar pedestal, there can be no shying away from the star’s devastating impact since his arrival in January.

The playmaker possesses similar traits: a sheer willingness to win, an ability to pick out team-mates in testing positions and, of course, an impressive goal tally.

These comparisons have been recently fuelled by Fernandes himself.

He told the official United Podcast: ‘For me, maybe I’m closer to Paul Scholes. (He) was a guy who likes to be in the box, who likes to give an assist, who likes to score a lot of goals.

‘I think Scholes was one of the best midfielders in the world. For England, a lot of people talk about Frank Lampard because he scored a lot of goals of course, one of the best in England too, you have Steven Gerrard too.

‘But I think Scholes is the one who makes more difference than anyone else. In the last generation, those three were the three best ones, and for me Scholes was best.’

But do the league statistics reflect Fernandes’ view? Sportsmail takes a closer look below…

CREATIVITY

Both players have made a name for themselves at Old Trafford by acting as the club’s creative fulcrum. Either are adept at dropping into a deeper role, or bursting to the edge of the penalty area to muster a shot on goal.

It is perhaps their expansive vision with the ball at their feet that stands out the most, however.

Top tier midfielders will be expected to both provide for their team-mates and also rack up a respectable goal tally themselves. Scholes and Fernandes have proved time and time again that they are comfortable, and distinguished, in both areas.

The former, across his 499 Premier League appearances for United, registered 55 assists. The amount of minutes between the now 46-year-old picking up a goal or teeing up a team-mate stands at 223.

Fernandes has already recorded 10 assists in 11 months, meanwhile – and the Portugal international typically scores or lays off an assist every 77 minutes. The numbers are skewed by the sheer difference in their appearances, admittedly.

The comparison between both players has also been waved away by Scholes. In his rebuttal, the Salford co-owner pointed to his own perceived ‘useless’ ability on set pieces, an area which Fernandes excels with.

United’s deadball dilemma, before the arrival of Fernandes, left the fanbase infuriated with corner after corner wasted. The club’s newest talisman has partially reversed these fortunes, though, in another impressive aspect to his arsenal.

GOALS

The brutal reality of football is that games boil down to one cold and hard statistic: goals. Scholes was capable of popping up at the perfect time and making himself a hero, a welcome attribute Fernandes has more recently seized upon.

Despite being fielded in a number of positions, and excelling in each of them, the Mancunian’s knack of finding the back of the net only diminished slightly during his latter years on the field.

His tally of 107 league goals for the club currently places him in 10th place on the list of United’s all-time top scorers. The average number of minutes between his goals stands at 338.

A fearsome long shot and split-second decision-making allowed him to relish in beating goalkeepers from distance or with a more calculated finish from close range.

Fernandes has also mastered the art of both. He currently boasts 13 top-flight goals in a red jersey to his name and will unquestionably score more over the coming seasons.

With United languishing well off their target of a Champions League spot last term, Fernandes’ signing from Sporting Lisbon breathed new life into the team.

The midfielder’s bursts forward and expertise into launching pinpoint passes up field spearheaded a late charge into the top four – and this form has extended into the new campaign.

The amount of minutes before the 26-year-old nets for the Old Trafford giants stands at 136. This betters Scholes’ numbers, but once again the gulf between the number of games they have played makes a notable difference here.

POSITION

The versatility of both players affords them the skillset to perform in a number of midfield positions.

Ferguson often relied on Scholes to operate behind the striker, and occasionally on the flanks. His unparalleled reading of the game, coupled with his tenacity, meant that the legendary Scotsman was very rarely left disappointed.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United have often struggled to break down opponents who are adept at holding their shape in and around their box.

As a result, Fernandes can often be found picking up the ball in a defensive position before shepherding his team-mates forward.

The former Sampdoria man likes to spray passes into the flanks or play those further forward in behind. He has also proven himself capable of threatening inside the box.

Both these characteristics were on display against Everton before the international break.

Fernandes popped up all over the field, seizing possession back and triggering a number of counter-attacks from the visitors. His brace, and an assist which led to Edinson Cavani bagging his first goal for the club, underlined his importance to the modern day United.

But once again, Scholes has played down any comparison between the positions both stars have occupied.

‘I think he plays higher up the pitch, ‘ he insisted. ‘I think he’s got great skill to beat a man, he looks like he wants to score goals, he’ll shoot from anywhere, he’s capable of playing a pass.’

DEFENSIVE ABILITY

Scholes earned a reputation, which was perhaps well-founded, for his brash tackling.

The diminutive player has admitted to having lacked a turn of pace, but often managed to defy this in his attempts to win the ball back.

A number of his challenges were beautifully timed, a textbook slide across the surface before a pirouette on the spot freed him up from attention. But plenty of others were not so gracious.

Aggression clearly flooded through Scholes’ veins, forming him into a formidable opponent with a hot-headed streak which saw him pick up an exorbitant amount of bookings in the league.

His final appearance before his second retirement came against West Brom in May 2013. In typical fashion, Scholes was shown a yellow card, his 97th in the top flight.

At the time, his total number of cautions was the third most in the history of the division.

He later told 5Live: ‘I didn’t always do it on purpose. Some of it was just bad timing.’

A handful of similar characteristics are also present in Fernandes. The Portuguese star’s selflessness when forced to harry back defensively has even led to Solskjaer cheekily rolling his eyes.

The Norwegian expressed exasperation that the playmaker’s willingness to tackle often meant he was no longer in a favourable position to spearhead forays down the other end.

His tackle success stands at 61 per cent, an impressive figure for an attack-minded performer. He has collected four yellow cards so far, but there is a long way to go before he surpasses Scholes’ unwanted record.

CONCLUSION

The comparisons between Scholes and Fernandes are merited in some aspects, but wide of the mark for others.

Both players have been able to drift into a number of positions in midfield, and often find themselves providing a threat from in and around the penalty area.

They also possess a similar level of desire on the field, which translates into a tough-tackling style combined with an otherworldly ability to find jaw-dropping passes.

Scholes tended to sit in a deeper position as the seasons progressed at United, however, and moulded his game around the range of distribution which has left Xavi and Zinedine Zidane, among others, speechless.

This is the main area where Fernandes differs. United’s current playmaker primarily operates around the 18-yard line, drifting across either side and waiting to pounce with a lightning strike of his own.

His passing, while still impressive, drifts astray on too many occasions to be likened to Scholes’.

But while there may be disagreement between both players over any likenesses they share, this is a pleasant debate for United fans to have.

For far too many seasons, the club have failed to mount a serious title challenge and been bereft of a truly world-class player to pave the way out of years of mediocrity.

As Fernandes approaches his first full year in Manchester, he has provided substantial promise that he may be the man to do just that.

Scholes has placed him in the same bracket as Teddy Sheringham and Eric Cantona during an interview in April, high praise indeed from the club legend.

But for now, as every single United supporter will agree, Scholes reigns supreme.

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