After appearing on UTD Podcast, Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes reflected on his illustrious career at Old Trafford and honourably played down the comments from some of the world’s best players suggesting that Scholes was the best central midfielder in world football.
After originally starting off his playing career as a forward, Scholes firstly spoke about moving into a midfield position for the first time and adapting his game.
“I played a lot of matches as a centre-forward/no.10,” said Scholes. “I just wasn’t quick enough, wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t tall enough – I had an eye for goal and as a kid going through all the youth teams, I used to goals loads of goals, I love scoring goals.
“I never thought that I’d have the energy to play in the central midfield. Looking back, it’s the best thing that could’ve happened because being brought up as a centre-forward and scoring goals all the time, that obviously helps going back into midfield but I still wanted to score goals and I still wanted to get forward as much as I can.
“Sometimes, my team-mates weren’t always happy with that. Positionally, I wasn’t great in a defensive midfield role, but I always had people next to me that were brilliant at that – Nicky Butt and Roy Keane, Michael Carrick was unbelievable. I was a bit more of a loose cannon – all over the place.”
In terms of former opponents and managers such as Pep Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, Xavi etc paying homage to Scholes as a player, calling the Oldham-based star the most complete midfielder in world football, Scholes responded to those sentiments insisting it’s nice to hear those things from the biggest names in the sport.
“When you hear people say things like that it’s nice,” added Scholes. “These really were the best players in world football – Zidane, Xavi and Guardiola was great at Barcelona.” As far as playing against those names goes, Scholes added: “Let’s finish it, please get to the end (laughs). They were brilliant – that Barcelona team was sensational. You shouldn’t go out thinking damaged limitation, even in the team I was in, but the Guardiola teams were unreal.”
When asked who his favourite team to play against, Scholes replied: “I scored a lot of goals against Newcastle. They were a team that I always felt good about playing against – a great ground, great atmosphere and for some reason, I seemed to score a lot of goals against them.” As for European opposition, Scholes admits that he relished playing against some of Europe’s elite teams.
“You love playing against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich at that time, with the size of those clubs, you just don’t get any bigger games than those. They aren’t always the most enjoyable, but they’re the games you want to be involved in.”
Coming out of retirement
Scholes also reflected on his return from retirement and pays homage to ‘the boss’, sir Alex. Reports suggested that Ferguson offered Scholes his no.18 shirt back on his return to the club, but Scholes jokingly denied those claims.
“I don’t think he did (laughs). The first team was struggling at the time, I spoke to Phil and Gary Neville about it and I was nervous about doing it. I went to see Mike Phelan first, I think I got to the training ground at about seven o’ clock in the morning (no sleep) and I said ‘Mick, I’m thinking about coming playing again’ and at the time, I wasn’t necessarily meaning for United, I meant for any club – I just wanted to play again.
“The last thing a club like this need is a lad who’s almost 37 coming back to play, but Mick insisted that it was a great idea and suggested that I go and see the manager. I waited for the manager to get in, it was around 8:30 in the morning and again I was nervous about what he’d say. I just went to see him and I said: ‘I just want to play again, I feel good’.
“I even said to him at the time, look, if you don’t want me that’s fine and I’ll find another club. Phil [Neville] was playing for Everton at the time, and he said ‘come and play for us’. Within 30 seconds of me speaking to the manager, he was on the phone to David Gill to sort my contract out. I carried on training with the reserves after that for a week or so, and the manager agreed that we wouldn’t tell anyone and we’d keep it a secret.
“I was due to play for the reserves against Newcastle midweek prior to the game against ‘City in the FA Cup, but it got called off. I then trained with the first team the day before the Manchester City game (in my coaching kit). After training, the manager just said: ‘just come to the hotel and act as if you’re a coach’. I don’t know why he didn’t want to tell the lads.”
Scholes admits that he had to pay a visit to his local shop to buy a pair of boots ahead of the Manchester Derby.
“I had to go to DW Sports in Oldham to buy a pair of boots. We couldn’t tell Nike and the coaching boots in weren’t great, so I had to go and buy a pair – I think they were £50-£60 or something. So we get to the ground and my shirt’s up and all the lads are telling me: ‘I knew it’. Danny Welbeck was at it: “I knew you were coming back” and you’re just embarrassed then, aren’t you? So I put my boots on, we go out for the warm-up and Jonny [Evans] says to me, are them those cheap boots you bought? (laughs).”