RELUCTANT hero Paul Scholes could join a select band to make 600 appearances for Manchester United tonight — with Alex Ferguson claiming he never had a single enquiry for the midfield maestro.
Only Bill Foulkes, Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs have played more often for the Red Devils than Scholes, who made his debut as a 19-year-old against Port Vale in 1994. Since then, Scholes has made an art form of avoiding publicity. There will be no fanfare to mark his latest milestone, or even his retirement should it come, as predicted, in the summer of 2010.
On Sunday at Wembley, no-one even bothered to ask the former England star whether he would stop to offer his observations on the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Everton. The waiting journalists knew what the answer would be, just as Ferguson feels potential suitors knew what response they would get should they have ever asked Scholes to join them.
“Funnily enough we have never had one enquiry for Paul Scholes,” said Ferguson. “You know why? Because they all know he will never leave. Maybe he has had private situations where people have begged him to join them because that is how it happens with agents phoning up and all that nonsense. But they all know he wouldn’t leave here.”
It can be quite amusing to watch Scholes in action. Showered, dressed and out of the dressing room while most of his team-mates are still digesting their latest battle, the 34-year-old prefers life at home with his three children to any of the glamour and glitz of the Barclays Premier League. If anyone else had called time on his England career at 29, still in his prime with loads to offer, a reason other than not wanting to be away from home would be presumed.
Not Scholes, who finished with 66 caps, a ridiculously small number for a player of such talent. Quite possibly Scholes was the outstanding English player of his generation.
“At United, you can go back to the Best, Law and Charlton era,” said Ferguson. “Before that you have Duncan Edwards. You are talking a wide panorama of players. But in my time he would be in the top six or seven without a doubt.”
Had Scholes not suffered the type of serious injuries Giggs never has, including an eye problem which kept him out for half a season in 2006 and threatened his career, he might well have been challenging the Welshman’s United appearance record of 798.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are among the big names who will return for United against Portsmouth tonight. Edwin van der Sar, John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher are also back after sitting out the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Everton, while Michael Carrick is attempting to shrug off a minor knock. Ryan Giggs, Scholes, Dimitar Berbatov and Patrice Evra are also expected to return to the starting line-up.
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