In an era where Premier League footballers became staples of the tabloid gossip columns and took to Twitter to vent their thoughts, Paul Scholes was the quiet man of English football.
He became an even more influential player than David Beckham and perhaps the best England midfielder of his generation.
Born in Salford, it did not take long for Scholes to make his way to Old Trafford where he became a key member of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s trophy-winning sides. That a mutual respect blossomed was understandable for Scholes, a talented player who gave of his best while not causing any off-field problems, was a footballer after Ferguson’s own heart.
Blessed with an eye for a pass and indeed a goal – Scholes scored the winner in United’s 2008 Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona – just about his only weakness on the field was an inability to tackle.
United fans would wince when, on the rare occasions he lost possession, Scholes tried to atone by going straight in with a challenge.
As the years passed, so did Scholes’ powers of recovery decline and there was something rather sadly inevitable about the way he was sent-off during United’s recent FA Cup semi-final defeat by local rivals Manchester City at Wembley following a late challenge.
While Gary Neville called it quits before the end of this term, allowing the full-back to enjoy a star-studded testimonial match in the run-up to United’s Champions League final defeat by Barcelona, Scholes soldiered on.
He then announced his retirement with a short statement that allowed him to end his playing days with a typical lack of fuss.
676 Man Utd appearances
66 England caps
Premier League: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
FA Cup: 1996, 1999, 2004
Champions League: 2008
League Cup: 2009, 2010
18th highest scorer in Premier League history (102 goals)
Fourth most booked player in Premier League history (87 times)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2011.