Scholes: I was never nasty
Paul Scholes has rejected the theory there was any malice behind his infamous tackling technique. The recently-retired Manchester United midfielder is widely acknowledged to be one of the best players of his generation. Zinedine Zidane, Xavi and Edgar Davids are among those who have claimed Scholes was the English player they would have most liked to star alongside. However, along with the huge talent that propelled him to 10 Premier League titles and a Champions League triumph in 1999 came occasional haphazard challenges that bordered on the reckless. Although overall, he was hugely complimentary, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claimed Scholes had a "dark side". And following the final red card of his career, for a thigh-high challenge on Pablo Zabaleta in United's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City at Wembley in April, even Sir Alex Ferguson admitted "the red mist sometimes descends" on the 36-year-old. Yet Scholes, whose 90 yellow cards make him the third most booked player in Premier League history, feels his reputation is unwarranted. "I have just been unlucky," he said. "I never had red mist against anybody. "The one against Zabaleta, I didn't do on purpose. It was just bad timing. "The ball was up there and the way your leg goes it has to come down and unfortunately it came down on his leg. "I would never intentionally try to hurt somebody. Nobody has ever had to go off following one of my tackles and nobody has broken their leg. "I have never been nasty." Scholes' opponents no longer have to worry, either about the midfielder's tackling or his remarkable passing ability. As Ferguson noted, it was typical that Scholes' retirement should be announced when he had disappeared on holiday, with the minimum of fuss, in the wake of United's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona. He has now returned to explain his reasons, pointing out that it was his body, rather than frustration at being used so sparingly, that led to his decision. "I knew it was the right time to happen," he said. "You can't go on forever. It's all done now and I am looking towards the future. "There wasn't one moment in particular. There were a few games later in the season where I didn't feel great, and in training as well. In general it was the way I felt. "Nobody wants to play a bit-part, but I'd realised that at this stage of my career and where I was physically, it was the right way to use me. "But, it wasn't the odd game, I was only actually feeling good when I was coming on for the last 15 or 20 minutes at the end of matches, which wasn't right." It wrecked any hope of turning out for hometown club Oldham, and instead has led Scholes towards a coaching career, even if, at present, he does not have the badges. In fact, thus far, Scholes has not been told by Ferguson exactly what role he has planned for him, and which team it involves. What has been sorted is a testimonial match against New York Cosmos at Old Trafford on August 5, which will mark the return of Eric Cantona, now director of football at one of the most famous names in US soccer, who hope to gain an MLS franchise in 2013. "The plan was for Eric to come back and overshadow me," laughed Scholes. "Hopefully everyone will be concentrating on him and I can just mosey off somewhere and be out of the way. "Seriously, the Cosmos are just getting back together again and it seemed a sensible thing to do. "He was a big influence on a lot of the United lads' careers. "We grew up watching him and then trained with him. He led by example and it will be great to have him back." ::Paul Scholes Testimonial, Manchester United v New York Cosmos. Tickets from £20 (£15 for over 65s and £5 for under 16s). Available from www.manutd.com or 0161 868 8000.
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