While Manchester United fans await the replacement of the legendary Ginger Prince, a few prolific names are already doing the rounds. One such name which has caught everyone’s attention is that of Frenchman Samir Nasri – The Little Prince, who has only a year left in his contract at the Emirates.
Scholes, who made his debut against Ipswich Town, as a forward in 1994, saw his position change from a forward to an attacking midfielder in the 1995-96 season, after the departure of Mark Hughes to Chelsea. This resulted in his pairing with Roy Keane – a partnership, which was considered to be United’s best in that decade. Since then, the midfield maestro has been enacting the role of a playmaker, while scoring some sensational goals (remember the goal against FC Barcelona in the semifinal of Champions League 2008).
Scholesy has 675 appearances to his name for the Red Devils and the former England midfielder also scored 150 goals. He has scored in all the seventeen Premier League seasons he has played in, with his best tally being 14 in 2002-03. He has scored 8% (102 of 1295) of Manchester United’s Premier League goals from September 1994 to May 2011 – a marvelous piece of statistic to gauge his competence.
A player, who is replacing Scholes, is expected to be a complete package – technically and also with leadership qualities. After all, not many have played for the same club, consistently, for almost two decades. Apart from his vision and technical brilliance, one other reason for his success has been the kind of balance he has maintained between his professional and personal life.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who is keen on bringing in a creative mid-fielder, definitely considers Nasri to be one of his prime options. The former Marseille midfielder, who was the most consistent player for Arsenal last season, will stay a Gunner, if and only if the talismanic Arsene Wenger guarantees to bring in quality players, capable of ending the ridiculous six-year trophy drought!
Another player, who is strongly considered to replace Scholes, is the 27-year old Wesley Sneijder. The Dutchman, however, has no intention of quitting Inter. When asked if he would consider a move to the Premier League, he said, “There is a family atmosphere at Inter and there are all the ingredients to aim high and at the moment I am very happy here and I don’t see why I should leave.” With this, we expect no further rumors about the Dutchman.
Considering the impact that Scholes had on the squad, very few players in the present era are capable enough to emulate him. Former World Player of The Year, Zinedine Zidane described Scholes as “undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation.” This in itself bears testimony to the former midfielder’s abilities. Albeit Samir Nasri’s playing style, ability and cultural background have drawn comparisons to French legend Zidane himself, he still has a long way to go to reach the echelon of the latter.
Nasri, the playmaker for Arsenal now, alongside Fabregas, has spent most of his career at Marseille as a deep-lying midfielder primarily on the right side. His close control with the ball, speed, dribbling, crossing and ability to use both feet can make him function on the flanks as well. His vision, technical skills and ability to read and understand the game makes him an apt candidate to replace Paul Scholes.
Manchester United’s successful 4-4-2 formation, which accommodated Valencia/Park and Nani/Giggs on the wings and Scholes/Carrick/Fletcher/Anderson in more central positions, would be undisturbed if Nasri comes in, as he has showed that he can play in a two-man midfield in the centre. However, if Sneijder joins United, he would prefer to play close to the forwards, may be in a 4-3-3 formation, which would again mean breaking up the Rooney-Hernandez pairing, which has worked so well last season!
If we look at the strike rate of all the midfielders in the Premier League, Samir Nasri is right at the top. He has 10 goals from 52 attempts (success rate of 19%), while the next best is Frank Lampard, who has the same number of goals, from 55 attempts (success rate of 18%).
Moreover, Samir’s game has never been just about goals; nonetheless, his improvement in that department is outstanding. The Little Prince, who has 5 assists and 15 goals in 46 appearances last season, is only expected to get better with time. He was instrumental in Arsenal’s successful run-in that lasted until mid of January. If the 2010-11 season had finished in January, Samir Nasri would probably have been Footballer of The Year.
If Nasri is juxtaposed with Scholes, we can find a lot of similarities in their playing style. However, Nasri has looked better in one aspect of the game – Tackling! Given the qualities and abilities in Nasri’s repertoire, he deserves to be a part of the club which competes for trophies rather than to stay at one, where beautiful football is perhaps the sole intention.
Nasri, who has established himself as one of the best players in the Premier League has all the potential to become an all-time great. Under Sir Alex’s tutelage, The Little Prince can only look for improvements and may well become the King at the Theatre of Dreams. The Frenchman, who cannot boast of a single medal to his name, since his arrival to the Premier League must give it a serious thought!
While Fabregas’ move to Barcelona is in the final stages, Arsene Wenger is having a tough time holding onto his star players. He needs no less than a miracle to keep hold of Samir!
The Frenchman would have many more incentives, if he joins the red-half of Manchester, which goes beyond the realm of the 90-minutes, week-in week-out! He will be mentored by the most successful manager in English football, will be replacing a legend, ergo taking control of the entire midfield, which he would not be able to do at Arsenal, in the presence of Fabregas. Lastly, he will definitely stand a better chance at winning silverwares.
As a mid-fielder, Samir is as good as they come. United fans would love him taking charge of the midfield. Manchester United’s signings for the summer would be complete with the acquisition of Nasri. This young footballer is headed for great things and an exciting career. It will be exciting to see as to what the future holds for him and how well he does for himself!
– Nandan Gururaj