The six months that Paul Scholes spent ‘retired’ must have been the most frustrating time of his adult life.
The Manchester United man had called time on his career last summer, after a trophy laden 17 years at Old Trafford. At 36, he had won it all, and had nothing else to prove. Yet, those months spent on the sidelines clearly re-awakened his desire to stride out onto the pitch again.
When it was announced that he would be coming out of retirement last January, many saw it as an act of desperation on the part of United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Yet his decision has proven inspired. True, United did not lift the title last season, but Scholes’ influence ensured that they were a lot closer to doing so than they would have been without him.
His legs may move a little slower these days, but his range of passing, vision, technique and execution is still world class. He is still able to dictate the play and still possesses a fearsome shot and eye for goal.
Against Wigan, last Saturday, in what was his 700th appearance, he once again demonstrated a master class of midfield play, even capping his performance with the opening goal.
It was only from five yards rather than his usual 25, but it still required great awareness and anticipation to be in the right place at the right time.
The ability to play on as a footballer is as much in the head as it is the legs. Once a player has mentally retired, it is difficult for the body to disagree.
Scholes’ self-imposed retirement appears to have reawakened a burning desire to keep playing. And while the body will eventually win that battle, he will continue to be a great asset to United and one all young players should watch and learn from.
United will take on Galatasaray in Group H of the Champions League, this evening. Fans of the Red Devils will take heart from the knowledge that the Turkish side have never won a game on English soil.
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