Everyone knew it was coming, and it did. Paul Scholes, at the age of 36, after 17 seasons with Manchester United, has hung up his boots for good, joining the club’s coaching staff next season.
He got to play in the 3-1 loss to Barcelona on Saturday, finishing his career with a Champions League Final match. He was on the losing side, but still, that’s not a bad way to go.
Scholes made his debut in September 1994 and has racked up 675 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions, fourth on the club’s all time list behind Ryan Giggs, Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. He played in 466 league matches, all Premier League games, 7th all time on that chart.
Goals? Scholes finished his career with 150 in all competitions and 102 in the Premier League. He is one of 20 players to score over 100 goals in the Premier League, ranked 18th, as usual behind Giggs (105).
At the beginning of the season Alex Ferguson said he wants Scholes to carry on for another season after this one. He looked strong and fresh during the early stages of 2010-2011 but quickly faded away and it was clear, that unlike Ryan Giggs, Scholes doesn’t have what it takes anymore to be consistently effective in the Manchester United midfield.
“I am not a man of many words but I can honestly say that football is all I have ever wanted to do and to have such a long and successful career at Manchester United has been a real honor.”
And success he had – 10 league titles, 3 FA Cups and two Champions League trophies.
Of all the praises Scholes has picked up in his career from various managers and players, I loved what Barcelona’s Xavi said about him a few months ago – A role model. For me, and I really mean this, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. He’s spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly. Players love him.
He had a bit of a dirty side to him – 89 yellow cards and 4 red cards during his Premier League career, third most booked player in history. His 32 Champions League yellow cards make him the most booked player of the competition.
I’m not saying he wasn’t dirty at times, but I’m inclined to go with Xavi on this one – Scholes was pretty much great at everything – passing , shooting, defending, keeping the ball. Everything you want from your man in the middle.
He also racked up 66 caps and 14 goals for England, retiring from the national team after the 2004 Euro. Years later, he regretted his decision and missing a World Cup or two.