Premier League

Paul Scholes announces retirement

Manchester United's Paul Scholes
The 38-year-old England midfielder initially retired from Manchester United in 2011.
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Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has confirmed his retirement for a second time.

The former England midfielder initially quit in 2011 but was persuaded to return for United in January last year. However, the 38-year-old, who is expected to make his first appearance since January in Sunday's Barclays Premier League encounter with Swansea, feels it is time to bow out.

"Yes I am finally hanging up my boots for good," he said. "Playing football is all I have ever wanted to do and to have had such a long and successful career at Manchester United, under the greatest manager of all time, has been an honor."

Given how much affection the 38-year-old is held in by Sir Alex Ferguson, it is fitting both men are bowing out at the same time. Regarded by teammates and opponents alike as one of the finest players of his generation, Scholes will be making his 498th Premier League appearance for United tomorrow, meaning he will fall just short of the magical 500.

In total, he has made 716 appearances for the Red Devils and scored the last of his 155 goals against FA Cup finalists Wigan last September. Many will argue his decision to turn his back on England at the criminally early age of 29 robbed the Three Lions of the most talented player at their disposal.

Fabio Capello thought so, hence his decision to try to coax Scholes out of retirement ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Scholes eventually opted against, although he latter admitted he regretted the decision.

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"Paul is a truly unbelievable player," said Ferguson. "He has always been fully committed to this club and it has been a real privilege to work with him for so many years. Paul will play at Old Trafford on Sunday against Swansea and will collect an unbelievable but well-deserved 11th Premier League medal."

Scholes began coaching the younger players at United after his initial retirement, although it was not felt he found the situation entirely to his liking. Some kind of role will be found for him though, even if David Moyes' impending arrival as Ferguson's replacement complicates matters slightly.

Not that Scholes believes the seismic events of this week will have any effect on United's trophy gathering capabilities. "The team has the right balance and will continue to thrive under the leadership of David Moyes," he said.

Of course, Scholes is so averse to the limelight, he is probably relieved almost all the attention will be on Ferguson, whose 13th Premier League title will be his last. There will also be one more game, at West Brom, next Sunday, at which to acclaim the 71-year-old.

But for the fans who have watched his teams most often, tomorrow will be it. It has already been confirmed the lower tier of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and parts of the lower Stretford End and East Stand will join together to create a special 'Champions 2013' mosaic, with the Scot due to make his final address post-match, having opted against making any public pronouncements since his retirement was confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Yet, almost bizarrely, the world does move on. Some United players, including Nani and Anderson, have futures to play for. Others must try to impress David Moyes, who surely will be reviewing a video of the game, even though his immediate commitment is to Everton.

And for Vidic, there is a need to maintain fitness after two campaigns blighted by injury.

"It has been a struggle to come back," said Vidic, who ruptured cruciate ligaments in December 2011 and then needed a further operation at the start of this season. I worked hard to recover and thankfully I still managed to play games in the Premier League and remained captain of the team. For that I am really proud."

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