Paul Scholes: Thierry Henry could destroy players with his pace

It is rare that you get a striker with speed and composure in equal measure but Henry had both

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Congratulations to the newly retired Thierry Henry on a fine career. It is rare that you get a striker with speed and composure in equal measure but Henry had both. He could flummox a defender with his pace and then had the presence of mind to slot the ball past the goalkeeper. He was a wonderful footballer.

Henry’s goal against United at Highbury in 2000 was among the best of the lot. Unfortunately for us, Sir Alex had warned us before the game about Arsenal playing the ball into Henry’s feet from short free-kicks. Sure enough, when we came to review the video of that marvellous goal, there was yours truly ambling across to try to block the ball going into Henry. Before we knew it, he had flicked it up and volleyed it into our net.

Playing against him was difficult, to say the least. And while we always had a plan, there is no way you go into a game against a player of Henry’s quality with a foolproof approach to keeping him quiet. We had top-class centre-halves and some days they could stop him, other times not. He would sometimes go wide and then it would be Gary Neville’s job. To Gary’s great credit, I can never recall a time when he found himself embarrassed.

I admired Jamie Carragher as a defender. He was the kind of player who knew how to handle the top strikers. Even he was caught out by Henry in a FA Cup tie in 2007 at Anfield. Henry out-sprinted Carragher to a ball down by the left touchline, left him on the floor and then turned back towards goal, cut inside on his right foot and scored. Rule No 1 with Henry: don’t get in a race with him.

With Henry the key for defenders was to stand off, so that if he did fancy a sprint you at least had that extra five yards on him. The problem was that even then he was dangerous. He might just decide to go for goal. He was a brilliant centre-forward and he won the lot: World Cup, European championships, European Cup, Premier League, Spanish league, French league, FA Cup. That is some career.