And the winner of our young football writer competition is…
15:55 GMT, 18 May 2012
After a long search to find Britain's best young football writer, Sportsmail is delighted to announce the winner.
Congratulations, Phil Leake!
Award: Phil Leake shows off his trophy after winning our competition
After teaming up with Barclays, we received hundreds of entries when the competition was launched midway through the season. Entrants aged between 16 and 30 were asked to write a 500-word article on a subject involving the Barclays Premier League.
The quality was extremely high, leaving the judges – including MailOnline sports editor Mike Anstead – with some tough decisions over who should emerge as the winner.
Despite very strong competition, the panel opted for Phil, who penned a piece on the comeback of Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes. You can read the article below.
Phil, 20, wins the opportunity to join a top Football Writers' Association journalist at a top-flight match at champions Manchester City next season. He will also take part in a week's work experience at the MailOnline.
He said: 'I’ve always followed the Barclays Premier League and enjoy writing about football but I never expected to win the competition. I’m so shocked that my article beat all the other entries!
'Working at MailOnline is an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the top football writers in the country and I can’t wait to get started.'
Phil Leake's winning entry (written midway through season!)
What an incredible Barclays Premier League season is unfolding, defined by vibrant, attacking football. Players have had us on the edge of our seats – whether it be the relentless Robin van Persie, the irrepressible Gareth Bale, or the seemingly ageless Ryan Giggs.
However, it is the rejuvenated Paul Scholes who could arguably make the difference in this year’s title race.
When Scholes decided to pull on the red shirt again in early January, he was expected to be a bit-part player, but he has been the cornerstone behind Manchester United’s recent good form.
Having called it a day last summer after collecting his tenth Premier League winners’ medal, Scholes was summoned by Sir Alex Ferguson following an injury crisis which had ravaged the United midfield.
With Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Tom Cleverley all facing lengthy layoffs; as well as the absence of several key defenders forcing Michael Carrick to play in central defence during the home defeat to Blackburn in late December; Ferguson felt the call to Scholes was a necessary one.
At the time, this was seen by many as a desperate measure from United as they fought a losing battle against their ‘noisy neighbours' Manchester City.
However, the little maestro has been a revelation. His performances have been at times exceptional, particularly in the home game with fierce rivals Liverpool where he gave a midfield master class in a match overshadowed by the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair.
Moreover, since Scholes’ return, United have negotiated a tricky run of fixtures to remain within two points of leaders City, who are the only side in the top seven that United still have to play.
Yet should we be surprised that Scholes has been so impressive despite six months out of the game He has always said that he is not interested in sitting on the sidelines.
To that end, he has adapted his game immeasurably since he came onto the scene as a fresh faced teenager. His entire career, up until the last five years or so, was defined by his late surging runs into the box and his thunderous long range shots which made him a goal scoring midfielder.
However, age has meant that he has had to alter his approach to the game. He now sits at the base of the United midfield, where he receives the ball and sprays it to all areas of the field.
There are few more beautiful sights in world football than one of Scholes’ low-ranging cross field balls.
Barcelona’s very own pass-master Xavi has described Scholes as a ‘role model’, describing him as ‘a spectacular player who has everything’. In an era when players are prone to moving from club to club in pursuit of personal glory,
Scholes has been a vital cog in the Manchester United machine for almost two decades. It’s hard to believe that he once said that he would be happy to call himself ‘a half-decent player’!