UTD Podcast: The truth about Scholesy's comeback
The brand new episode of our UTD Podcast series stars a bona fide legend of Manchester United in Paul Scholes, whose stories of an iconic and ingenious career are unmissable for all Reds supporters.
Our presenters David May, Helen Evans and Sam Homewood sat down with the 11-time Premier League champion on the rooftop football pitch of Hotel Football, to reflect on one of the most decorated careers Old Trafford has ever seen.
Fans can listen to the episode right now on the club's official music provider Deezer and all of your favourite podcast streaming apps.
In the week when United take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, we couldn't spend time with Scholesy and not ask him for the truth about his famous return from retirement in 2012, against the Blues at the Etihad Stadium...
On set with Scholesy Gallery
Go behind the scenes of Paul's UTD Podcast - out today - that was recorded on the rooftop pitch of Hotel Football.
WHY SCHOLES RETIRED
Looking back on his decision to retire for the first time, in May 2011, Scholes explains: “I just didn't feel great physically. I was 35. We had a game at Blackpool, away, and we were getting beat 2-0. I just felt shocking.
“That must have been the February or March. My contract was coming to the end. I spoke to the manager. He said they wanted to give me another year I just said I'd think about it but I don't think so.
“I'd had enough. It wasn't so much the games, it was the training. We had young lads coming to train, people like Tom Cleverley, young and quick players, and you just think that you can't train with them, let alone play games. But it ended up that the games were the easiest part. Training with 19, 20 and 21 year olds every day, you think 'Jesus Christ I can't even live with these'.
“Then you start to worry about the games. Training was the hardest part of the week. Recovery after games was also a nightmare, a disaster for two days.”
What followed was a short period of 'retirement', before a return to the Aon Training Complex as a youth coach led to an unlikely comeback.
“I had some time off and I came back in September,” continues Paul. “The manager wanted me to do the Reserves with Warren Joyce and I wasn’t that bothered about coaching, I didn’t really enjoy it that much, so I just ended up training with him and Joycey was the hardest trainer in the world. He probably had the fittest team.
“Every single day you were running and doing stuff that was just so hard. It was my worst nightmare in a way, but come Christmas time I felt as fit as I had ever felt in 15 years. Warren had a lot to do with it.
“There was a game when they played Blackburn at Christmas time and the centre midfield was Phil Jones, with one of the da Silva twins – Rafael or Fabio. I just thought ‘I want to play, I can’t get into this coaching business and I don’t really like it’. I would had been 36 then so I just came back to play. The first team was struggling.
“I spoke to Phil and Gary Neville about it. I was nervous about doing it. I went to speak to Mick Phelan first about it and I think I got to the training ground for about seven in the morning. I said 'I think I am going to come back playing again' and at the time I wasn’t necessarily meaning for United, I just meant for anyone because I just wanted to play again. I didn’t think that a club like this would want a lad who is nearly 37 and wants to come back and play.
“Mick, obviously because the squad was struggling and the team was struggling, he thought it was a great idea and told me to see the manager.
“Again, I was nervous, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, so I waited for the manager to come in, this must have been half eight in the morning, and I went to see him. I said ‘I want to play again and I feel okay’. I think I said 'if you don’t want me then that is fine, I will play for anyone'. Phil was at Everton at the time and he said ‘come and play for us if they don’t want you to play’.
“I tell you what, within 30 seconds the manager was on the phone to David Gill to sort the contract out. It was quick.
“I carried on training with the Reserves for a week or so. The manager said we wouldn’t tell anyone and would keep it a secret. I was due to play for the Reserves against Newcastle on the Tuesday or Wednesday before City, but it got called off.
“Then I trained with the first team the day before the City game, but I still had my coaches kit on with ‘PS’ on. The manager just said ‘come to the hotel and act as if you are a coach’. I don’t know why he didn’t want to tell anyone, I don’t know why it was a big secret.
“The manager told me to come to the hotel, sit with the coaching staff, just have a glass of red wine and stuff the night before the game.”
EMERGENCY FOOTBALL BOOTS
Due to the secrecy, Paul had to make a small investment to fund his return to professional football.
“I had to go to the retail park in Oldham to buy a pair of boots, because we couldn’t tell Nike and the coaches’ boots they gave us weren’t great,” laughs Paul.
“So I had to go and buy a pair for £50 or £60. Everybody knows then. I get to the ground and then my shirt was hanging up. Danny Welbeck was saying ‘I knew it, I knew, I knew you were coming back’.
“I was just embarrassed, thinking ‘is everybody looking at me and thinking what is he doing?’. So I put my boots on and went out for a warm up. Jonny [Evans] said to me, ‘are they the cheap boots that you’ve bought – you’ve bought the snide ones’."