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Paul Scholes exclusive: Fergie’s tactics can be used to stop the world’s greatest playmaker, Pirlo

In his latest column for the Paddy Power Blog, the 66-times capped England international looks at the heat factor in Manaus, the issues down the right for England and how Danny Welbeck could play a huge role...

by Paul Scholes | June 5, 2014

There’s three things I want to focus on in this column: Andrea Pirlo, the heat and England’s defensive frailties.

England appear to be preparing meticulously in Miami for the heat and humidity of Manaus where they play Italy on June 14.

Euro 2004 in Portugal was hot, but the World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002 was horrendous. We struggled in 37 degrees (and I struggled more than most) especially against Brazil in Shizuoka.

Scholes v Brazil

HUFFING AND PUFFING: Facing Roberto Carlos, and the heat, in 2002

Before the game we didn’t even go onto the pitch because it was that hot. We stayed inside to warm up – it was ridiculous. We went in front early (through Michael Owen) and Brazil had Ronaldinho sent off in the second-half, but we still couldn’t get a kick.

Against Italy in the heat we need all our ‘footballers’ to play. Possession is everything. Then there’s Pirlo…

He was outstanding in the World Cup in 2006 and got three man of the match awards six years later at Euro 2012.

Pirlo is the world’s greatest playmaker – the complete footballer. Give him time and space and he will destroy you. He’s such a clever player and is so composed. If surrounded he’ll lay it off. If he’s got room he’s devastating.

Even though England’s Euro 2012 game against Italy finished 0-0, we paid nowhere near enough attention to him. Pirlo is not renowned for his athleticism, and he’s 35 now, but that day he ran 11.58 kilometres, more than any England player. He also had more passes (131) than England’s four starting midfielders.


LEFT FOR DEAD: Podolski wasn’t alone in 2012 of those who went up against Pirlo

Roy Hodgson seems to have underestimated him in 2012, which surprised me given Alex Ferguson tactics previously to stifle Pirlo.

In 2010 before Man United played AC Milan in the Champions League, Sir Alex gave very specific instructions on how to take care of Pirlo. Man-marking him was a huge part of our pre-game plan – I played against him when Milan beat us 3-0 at the San Siro in 2007. We didn’t man-mark him. He destroyed us. We learned, and it was painful.

Park Ji-Sung was the perfect man for Pirlo in 2010 and never gave him kick (in a 7-2 aggregate victory). You could even see Pirlo getting frustrated and having little kicks out by the end.

Pirlo spoke about Park in his book: ‘They’d programmed him to stop me. His devotion to the task was almost touching. Even though he was a famous player, he consented to being used as a guard dog.”

For Manaus, we need an ‘English Park Ji-Sung’ – one England player designated to man-mark him. Looking at the squad, Danny Welbeck (below) – a good defender who can nick the ball well – could be an option and would be a bold decision, one which gives England a creative outlet, and saddles Pirlo with defensive work.

Manchester United v Fulham - Barclays Premier League

As for defensive frailties, an experienced Peru team would not have been the best but a couple of kids were on their first cap against England last week, and at times Peru still looked like they could get in and score, especially down England’s right where we looked vulnerable.

When you see a team like Peru exposing it, imagine what Suarez or Cavani might do, or other world class players in the later stages?

James Milner or Jordan Henderson could be asked to give Glen Johnson extra cover down the right – when Johnson goes forward it leaves spaces and Gary Cahill will be exposed. It’s got me worried.

Gary Neville and the England management are well aware of Pirlo’s threat. We cannot make the mistakes of 2012 again.

Otherwise, Italy have decent players, without being special. Mario Balotelli can be brilliant but I hope it’s the version who’s sulking and has a little stroll around the pitch.

I’ll preview the game next week but right now I think the best we can hope for is a draw against Italy if we manage the heat, keep the ball and stop Mr Pirlo – we can beat Uruguay and Costa Rica.

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  1. Colin Williams said on June 5, 2014 @ 8:14 am

    Has anyone got Roy’s email address?

  2. Paul Scholes Is Full Of Praise For Andrea Pirlo In His Column This Week said on June 5, 2014 @ 9:01 am

    […] Scholes has a new column on Paddy Power this week and in it he highlights the threat Andrea Pirlo poses to England in Brazil and is adamant […]

  3. Tony Green said on June 5, 2014 @ 10:20 am

    I think if we keep possession we can nullify Pirlo without expending one of our players to guard dog him.

  4. Paul Scholes loves Andrea Pirlo and suggests how England can stop him | said on June 5, 2014 @ 10:47 am

    […] You can read the full blog on Paddy Power here […]

  5. shrey said on June 5, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    you are right maestro but I can clearly see England struggling.

  6. Saptarshi Paul said on June 5, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

    That’s why you don’t produce special players or match-winners like Messi, Ronaldo or Suarez. ‘I think the best we can hope for is a draw against Italy’ – You don’t think or dream big. You never have the confidence. How can you win a World Cup with that kind of attitude? Even Spain, being a hotter country than yours, won the World Cup in the freezing winter of South Africa.

  7. Saptarshi Paul said on June 5, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

    I hope Paul Scholes, who will remain my footballing ideal forever, reads my comment (above).

  8. godwin said on June 5, 2014 @ 9:28 pm

    Pirlo is the heart beat of that Italian. It could be another 2012 if England dont take your advice.

  9. Anonymous said on June 6, 2014 @ 10:59 am

    one load off rubbish but there again it comes from a idiot Scholes like his fellow playmates

  10. Anonymous said on June 6, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

    scholes is rubbish just like his ex team nates ryon gigs ,gary Neville cant get his own way at Manchester so is unhappy because Rooney got such a wage rise,england will get well in the world cup
    this is my first letter thank you

  11. Mark McVey said on June 6, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

    Danny Welbeck to man mark Pirlo? Is this another Paddy Power joke? Totally ridiculous and it is not appreciated criticising Rooney, concocting hypothetical situations about him being dropped (or not) if he does not perform. This smacks of self publicity to promote this Paddy Power blog and earn a bit of extra cash. I always admired Paul Scholes as a footballer, but as a pundit or whatever this constitutes you have gone way down in my estimations. I guess working for an Irish business you are not tied into supporting the England team, but there is no need to cause trouble a week before the tournament starts. We have enough problems as it is.

  12. NedVed said on June 7, 2014 @ 1:36 am

    -> Anonymous on 6 Jun
    You obviously know lots about football and scholesy

    ->Saptarshi Paul
    Dream big? Have you watched England play for the last 10 years and thought them the equal of say Spain? Power of positive thinking doesn’t begin to help narrow this chasm

    England can’t – they wish but they simply can’t, let’s leave it at that – play possession football against the better teams. So what’s left? Man mark the creator

  13. mark mc g said on June 7, 2014 @ 2:08 am

    what are u talking about mark each to there own does it matter weather the company hes writing for is from the moon and most of what he said is not far from the truth, what ever he says or writes aint going to change the problems you have, if you don’t like it don’t read it…………. scholes a legendas ever

  14. Keef said on June 9, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

    -> Anonymous on 6 Jun You obviously know lots about football and scholesy –

    See more at:

    Agree !
    (and typing . . . and spelling . . . and stuff.)

  15. Keef said on June 9, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

    Hey, PADDY ! ! !

    Got any super free giveaway comp prizes lined up for the World Cup blog – you know – guessing the grounds or Wayne Rooney’s IQ, or that sort of thing !? Just asking. . . . !

  16. James said on June 12, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

    Scholes has a point in man marking Pirlo, but I’d opt for Phil Jones instead of Welbeck to do the job. Just like Jones did a job against CR when they met in the Champions League last season. Also by playing Jones, Gerrard will have more freedom to go forward. It will be nice to see England take the game to Italy with their pacy players Sturridge, Welbeck, Sterling with Gerrard and Rooney pulling the strings in the middle with their usually superb range of passing.

  17. James said on June 12, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

    Save Barkley and Oxlade-Chamberlain(if he’s fit) for the second half. Let them run at Italy’s defense when they tire down.

  18. artizanista said on June 17, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

    Spot on Scholsey!

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