TheFA.com tries to explain the secret of Paul Scholes' success...
He's one of the finest players in England and has already won more trophies in his career than most clubs have in their existence but still Paul Scholes remains an elusive character...both on and off the pitch. TheFA.com's Daniel Freedman tries to explain exactly what makes the man from Salford so special...
You're top of the table and know that victory will take you five points clear of your nearest rivals. Your opposition is proving hard to break down and there's only twenty minutes remaining. You need a goal, an opening from somewhere. You need Paul Scholes.
This little genius proved once again on Sunday that he has a knack like no other in the modern English game. His ability to see an opening, to sense a chance, and to take it, sets him apart from contemporaries and has done for the best part of a decade.
His strike against Spurs - his 14th league goal this season - was Scholes in microcosm. The flick onto Giggs owed everything to his awareness of those around him and a deftness of touch to be able to pick him out. Once he'd found his man, there was no idle self-appreciation of his own finesse; his instinct was already driving him on further, into the heart of the opposition's penalty area. Then, as Giggs' curling centre came across, Scholes displayed his faultless technique, nodding the ball purposefully home from close range. He even celebrated with a gusto that we don't normally see from him. That was testament to his desire to succeed.
Scholes may not be able to dribble past four men on a sixty-yard dash between penalty areas like Kieron Dyer. He can't even sweep into the tackle in the way that his friend and team-mate of fifteen years, Nicky Butt, can. He doesn't need to.
The magnificence of this midfield magician is that almost all the work is done before he's even touched the ball. You know the phrase: 'the first ten yards are in his head'. With Scholes it's slightly different - more like: 'he's already made his next move in his head'.
Whether that move is his own - a scampering little dash forward to collect the ball - or a pass that he makes look inordinately simple, you'll hardly ever see the occasion arise when he hasn't got a plan in mind. And it is in that mind that the key to Scholes' success lies.
In 21st century football you can argue that there is only a certain level of skill that you can attain. Once players - through years of practice - have reached that level, it is the more indistinguishable features of their game that will enable them to rise to an even higher grade. Attitude is most certainly one of those qualities. Another is intelligence. At the very highest level of the game, it's the swiftness of the mind, rather than the feet, that can make a match yours.
"Paul has a quick brain, two great feet and he bemuses opponents because he pops up in the most unexpected places," Sir Alex has said, acknowledging the cerebral core to Scholes' abilities.
"People have said that even were Paul to play centreback he would score a hatful of goals because of his ability to get into the box unnoticed.
"I think it is a natural thing, because of that brain of his, it is not something which you learn."
But what good is imagination and intelligence if your feet cannot carry out your brain's orders? That is where the other key Scholes skill - technique - comes into the equation.
"He hits a football like the world's best golfers strike through their shots and it's a fantastic technique," is how another former United and England legend, Bryan Robson, has described Scholes' ball-striking technique.
To watch Scholes in training is a real privilege. Taking Robson's sporting metaphor a little further, Scholes addresses a football as a snooker player does the cue ball. Spin, swerve, power are all within his armoury - and he can execute any with equal facility and excellence. If you placed a cone 40 yards away from him, he'd be able to find it with five different strikes of the ball. It is graceful efficiency.
The final piece of the Scholes jigsaw is his ability to see himself from an objective standpoint. His maturity - at 28 he's at the peak of his game - and his understanding of himself and his game means that he is self-aware: he can see himself as an outsider would, deploying himself in the areas that he knows will be the most effective. In a way, he manages himself - and his boss can see it too.
"He must realise how good he is because you can't go into our games without displaying and expressing your abilities.
"Maturity brings a lot of things - understanding and a realisation of what he is good at," Sir Alex said in January this year.
Scholes is not the complete footballer. But he is a very special player, gifted with talents that are uncommon the modern game.
His appreciation, subtlety and technique mean that he is capable of winning games. His temperament, self-awareness and intelligence mean that he does.
City of Birth: Salford, 16 November 1974
Weight: 73.47 kg
Team: Manchester United