Man United midfielder Paul Scholes retires

Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes announced his

retirement from football 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 football for the

past two decades.

Spain midfielder Xavi dubbed 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 footballers 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 by Barcelona in the Champions

League final at Wembley.

A fortnight earlier, 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 football 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 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’ armory 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 through

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 wrote on his Facebook page. ”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.”

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.

Scholes was 29 when he retired from England duty. Current

England coach Fabio Capello tried to tempt him back 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.