Some moments will go down in Premier League folklore, and thus we come onto a story of legend, neediness and wonderful, wonderful timing …
It really was a strange time for this Paul Scholes return for Manchester United around 2011/12-ish. Around 3 years earlier, their ‘noisy neighbours‘ Manchester City were starting to develop a certain reputation for themselves. One where it seemed that they would emerge from the shadows they called ‘home‘ for so darn long.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Manchester City were subject to one of the most angelic takeovers of all time – which game them a bank account that even the biggest teams in the world could only dream of. With this, United were forced to look over their shoulder more than usual …
… and decisions like wilfully allowing Paul Scholes to retire in 2011 appeared far more impactful than at first glance.
Originally announcing his retirement on 2011 with the typical no-nonsense and non-emotional approach that the ‘Ginger Ninja’ holds dear to his psyche, the entire notion of there being a Paul Scholes return was about as unimaginable as you leaving that piece of cake in the fridge until tomorrow. Not gonna happen!
After all, not only did he have a phenomenal career in the red of Manchester United, but he had also achieved pretty much everything he wanted to achieve by the time he felt he was ready to hang up those boots. Having retired kinda prematurely from the England squad for his own reasons, his club career left little to gripe about with his own talents proving integral to the success of his club during what was coming to the end of their latest purple patch.
Alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Louis Saha, Edwin van Der Sar and a plethora of others that roll off the tongues of all Red Devils fans around the world, Paul Scholes’ decision to retire was done in the knowledge that the remaining group were capable of picking up where he’d left off. Never mind the fact that his manager and chief executive were at the top of their game as far as building and rotating the squad was concerned.
However, even figures as strong and dependable as they were unable to make up for losing a player like Scholes. Especially during a time where their ‘noisy’ neighbours were starting to become a little more threatening than usual.
A threat which was to encourage a Paul Scholes return which many thought was impossible!
Sensing numerous issues in the centre of midfield throughout the 2012/13 season – with the likes of Fabio Da Silva and Phil Jones being recruited into that position to make up for the squad’s shortcomings – Paul Scholes began training with the club’s reserve squads to see if he was still capable of doing what he’d done for so long.
Upon realising what he’d already knew, Sir Alex and co put a contract in front of him quicker than they did his ‘22‘ shirt to officialise his reunion with the squad. Who, incidentally, didn’t know much about his coming back until he came into the dressing room on 8th January 2012 – prior to a derby-day fixture in the FA Cup.
In an almost impossibly unlikely set of circumstances, this Paul Scholes return would come up against the very force he was destined to conquer. Which he did immediately when coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 win for United. That year, City would go on to win the league in the most dramatic of circumstances, which would lengthen Scholesy’s stay at the club until he felt that his homegrown club were back on top.
He would then officially retire for good alongside his manager with the coveted 20th Premier League title sewn up for the Old Trafford club. The perfect end to the perfect career for one of Manchester United’s best.