Scholes signs off
As Paul Scholes retires from football for a second time, Sky Sports pays tribute to the career of the Manchester United midfielder
Last Updated: 12/05/13 6:41am
It is the end of an era at Old Trafford after it was confirmed that a man who has helped deliver unparalleled success to Manchester United will be retiring following a long and glorious career, with tributes flooding in for somebody who has truly broken the mould.
While such a description would accurate relate to legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, in this instance we are talking about Paul Scholes, who is to hang up his boots at the age of 38.
He has retired once before, back in the summer of 2011, when the announcement came with no great fanfare, no press conference, and after he had already set off on holiday.
It is fitting that on this occasion he gets the chance to receive a proper farewell from United supporters keen to show their appreciation to a special player, even though he has never sought out the spotlight for himself.
Scholes was Sir Alex Ferguson's dream. Not for Scholes the photo shoots or lifestyle pieces. Scholes never courted headlines like David Beckham. His wife never assumed celebrity status on her own.
This is the man who, on the day England discovered they would not be hosting the World Cup in 2018, could take his son to an ice-skating rink next to the spot where interviews had been set up with various Manchester notables and hardly anyone notice him.
But put him on a football pitch and everyone knew who he was.
From a young kid, wagging a finger at a packed Kop at Elland Road after dispatching a penalty in the Youth Cup final, to blasting home the winner in that memorable 2008 Champions League semi-final triumph over Barcelona - Scholes has set the standards.
Players who played with and against him regard Scholes as the finest English footballer of his generation.
That his international career was brought to an end at 29, immediately after Euro 2004, dispirited and disillusioned at being shunted away from his favoured central midfield station by Sven Goran Eriksson was verging on the criminal.
Steve McClaren tried to call Scholes back and failed. Not for the last time, Fabio Capello's communication skills were found wanting when he got in touch ahead of naming his World Cup squad in 2010, and there was even talk about an international return under Roy Hodgson for Euro 2012.
The country as a whole has reason to lament Scholes' absence. For Manchester United, though, he will always be the unassuming hero.
As a youth-team player, Scholes was a striker, moving slowly back as his career progressed.
Part of that famed 'Class of 92' that debunked Alan Hansen's theory that "you never win anything with kids", Scholes won the first of his 10 league titles in 1996 and, 12 months after making a substitute appearance in the defeat to Everton, completed the double by winning the FA Cup, beating Liverpool at Wembley.
It was the start of a club career littered with silverware and memorable moments.
A quite brilliant volley at Bradford in 2000 stands out, as does a hat-trick at Newcastle three years later as part of his best seasonal haul of 20 as the trophies stacked up.
There were dark days as well. Although Roy Keane's absence from the 1999 Champions League final is never forgotten, others fail to recall Scholes was suspended as well.
That is what made his Old Trafford thunderbolt in 2008 all the more important, allowing, as it did, Scholes to fulfil what many felt was his destiny in that final defeat of Chelsea in Moscow.
Illness and injury were already starting to bite in a way that never happened with Ryan Giggs, though, and he announced his retirement in a typically understated manner in 2011.
However, that was not the final chapter in Scholes' remarkable career and, after a few months in a coaching role when he had still kept himself fit, he made a shock return to the United squad in January 2012.
There was initially some criticism of the move as a 'backward step for United' but that soon evaporated as Scholes reminded everyone of his prodigious talent and re-established himself as a key player at Old Trafford.
He has brought vital experience as well as quality to the side at a time when United have continued to impressively build for the future whilst maintaining the highest of standards, and has scored in the past two seasons to make it 19 consecutive Premier League campaigns in which he has found the net.
He has made an important contribution to United's success this season, when they have recaptured the Premier League title in scintillating fashion, although he has been sidelined for the past few months due to injury.
Scholes will now bid farewell again to football and it is a sad loss to the game of one of the modern greats.