Man United midfielder Paul Scholes retires

Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes announced his
retirement on Tuesday, ending the trophy-laden career of a famously
low-key player widely regarded as one of the most technically
gifted of his generation.

The 36-year-old Scholes made 676 appearances for United after
making his debut for the club in 1994 and was the midfield
heartbeat of a team that has dominated English soccer for the past
two decades.

Spain midfielder Xavi called Scholes ”the best central
midfielder that I have seen,” while France great Zinedine Zidane
once branded him ”almost untouchable.”

”I am not a man of many words but I can honestly say that
playing football is all I have ever wanted to do and to have had
such a long and successful career at Manchester United has been a
real honor,” said Scholes, who eschewed the celebrity lifestyle of
many modern day soccer players and rarely gave interviews.

”This was not a decision that I have taken lightly, but I feel
now is the right time for me to stop playing.”

Scholes won 10 Premier League titles – and 24 trophies in total
– with United, scoring 150 goals, but was no longer a regular
choice in the first team by the end of the recently completed
season, leading to growing speculation about his playing future.
His last appearance for the northwest power was as a late
substitute in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions
League final at Wembley.

Earlier in the month, he had helped United claim a record 19th
English title, overhauling Liverpool as the country’s most
successful league team. He made 66 appearances for England before
retiring from international soccer in 2004 to concentrate on his
club career.

A one-club man, Scholes said he will stay at United by taking up
a coaching role starting next season.

”What more can I say about Paul Scholes that I haven’t said
before,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. ”We are going to miss
a truly unbelievable player.

”Paul has always been fully committed to this club and I am
delighted he will be joining the coaching staff from next season.
Paul has always been inspirational to players of all ages and we
know that will continue in his new role.”

Starting out as a deep-lying forward, Scholes eventually dropped
back into central midfield where his touch, technique and vision
could be more effectively utilized. He never lost his eye for the
goal, though, and turned his late runs into the penalty box into an
art form.

Scholes had a particularly fierce shot and was always dangerous
from outside the box.

”He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he
never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession
away,” Xavi said. ”If he had been Spanish then maybe he would
have been valued more.”

The only part of Scholes’ game that let him down was his
tackling, which was often late and clumsy. He missed the dramatic
win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final because
of suspension, but started in 2008 when United beat Chelsea on
penalties in Moscow to claim its third European Cup.

”It is very sad day for Manchester United fans around the
world,” said United chief executive David Gill. ”We all know that
Paul was one of the players that came through the ranks of the
academy system in the 1990s and has established himself as one of
the greatest players to ever wear the United shirt.”

After Gary Neville, Scholes is the second member of the batch of
young talent to burst into United’s first team during the early
1990s, which also included David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, to retire
this season.

”I was fortunate to play alongside him for many years,”
Beckham said. ”He was not only one of England’s best ever players,
he was a dedicated professional. We knew him as the ‘silent
assassin’ as he was quiet but boy could he make himself heard
through his tackles on the training pitch. I’m still carrying a few
bruises. What a great career and a Man United legend.”

Neville posted on Twitter: ”Paul Scholes- The Best! Great
Player, Person, Friend.”

United defender Rio Ferdinand used his Twitter account to
describe Scholes as ”the BEST player of his generation.”

”Paul Scholes aka Sat Nav went from a scoring midfielder to a
dictator of the game(changed his game while still at top of the
game),” Ferdinand wrote.

Current England coach Fabio Capello tried to tempt him back to
the national team just a few weeks before last year’s World Cup in
South Africa but Scholes declined, saying he hadn’t been given
enough time to make the decision.