Paul Scholes was key to the success that Manchester United enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson, with him retiring, for a second time, the year our legendary manager retired. He finished his career with an incredible 11 titles. When you compare his record to entire football teams, only Liverpool and Arsenal have won more, as well as United, obviously.
However, his United career might not have lasted so long if he hadn’t made the decision to retire from international duty in 2004, going on to play for United until 2013.
Sven-Goran Eriksson claimed that Scholes was England’s best player but it was Fabio Capello who almost tempted him out of retirement for the World Cup in 2010.
I had a young family at the time and going away for England for 10 days at a time, sometimes six weeks in the summer, it just wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t enjoying it. I know a lot was made of Sven-Goran Eriksson playing me on the left-hand side of midfield but that was never the problem.
My form in the last 20 or 30 caps wasn’t quite good enough and Steven and Frank were two top-class players who he went with centrally. I was on the left but I played there many times for United and was quite successful there, scored a few goals so it was never really why I left England. It was just a personal choice.
I do regret leaving England so soon. I went back to United and my football changed. I had been a player who was expected to score goals all the time for England, which I was judged on.
Sir Alex Ferguson saw that he wanted me to play well into my 30s and I needed a different position. I moved back and controlled games from midfield, sitting deep, and I was never that player for England.
I ended up playing there for five or six years and looking back playing there from 30-35 was probably the most enjoyable part of my career. I really enjoyed that position, I wasn’t scoring goals but to sit back and control games, I really enjoyed it. I finished with England too early to progress in that position.
I was tempted to come back, you’d hear whispers all the time but there was only the one time really officially.
It was before the World Cup in South Africa, I’d played well that season and they were struggling with a few injuries. Fabio Capello wanted me to come back, I got a phone call from Stuart Pearce who was on the staff.
I had a few days to think about it and I felt I was playing well enough, I just decided that it was wrong, I hadn’t been involved in qualifying and there were other players who had been in the squad for two years, being away from their families.
Capello didn’t ring me, maybe if he had it might have been different. Maybe he could have twisted my arm. Is it something I regret? Probably I do because at that time I was playing really well.