It’s hard to say Paul Scholes had a lot to do with his 11th Premier League title. He hasn’t started in a league match since December, but a medal is a medal. Retiring for the second time in 24 months shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows, with Manchester United having a more meaningful departure to handle. One of the greatest midfielders in England’s history is calling it quits, this time for good, but without anyone really paying attention.
The numbers? Not much, but a little better than when he left for the first time: 716 matches, 155 goals, and another championship to tell the grandsons about. Scholes came back in the 2011-2012 and felt like a pivotal anchor in the middle of the pitch, giving United something they sorely missed during their race with Manchester City, although it wasn’t enough when it was all over.
This season? He seemed like a liability. A summer of actually being part of the team seemed to speed the aging process, and after a couple of good performances early on, the decline of his speed in both body and thought was too much for United to carry on relying on him. Scholes became less and less important, while Michael Carrick became the center of everything in the middle, with other names rotating around him.
Scholes hasn’t played at all since January. Injury, yes, but mostly being unable to give what Alex Ferguson needed from a player. Not his fault; at 38, few can keep up with the demands of the Premier League and especially at a club like Manchester United, where anything less than the best isn’t good enough. And yet it feels like Scholes deserves a better sending off, in terms of how much we saw from him during the season, especially when compared to the first time he said goodbye.
Forgotten man, or not too far from it. Always in the shadow of Ryan Giggs, who keeps on playing well in the chances that he gets, despite looking like a dinosaur during the early stages of the season, an opposite from the impression Scholes gave. At some point, the scales tipped in the other direction, and Scholes soon looked like a man far too old to be doing anything worthwhile on the pitch, simply counting his days till his final retirement.
Now he’s got it, and United don’t really lose anything for it. He came back, gave the little he still had in him, and went out again. Without glory or too much flash, never something he had attached to his name during his career. Even though he hasn’t done anything this season to merit too much appreciation, just looking back beyond these last couple of years, even when it’s a second retirement, Scholes deserves a better send-off.