I'm sure you'll be wondering why I am publishing this article now, rather than on the day on which Paul Scholes retirement was announced. The answer is that, quite simply, I needed time to figure out quite how I felt about the announcement.
Many foresaw that Scholes would hang up his boots at the end of the season, yet when it actually did happen, it still came as a shock to me the idea that Paul Scholes would never again be turning out for Manchester United just doesn't seem right.
As a Liverpool fan, I should be overjoyed by the news that Manchester United have lost their talismanic midfielder. Yet it is with a sense of sadness that I greet the news that Scholes has hung up his boots.
When Gary Neville retired earlier in the season, I bid him good riddance. But with Scholes, it was different, surely due to the way that Scholes conducted himself throughout his career. He was a professional, with a humility quite apart from the arrogance of Neville, who seemed to be on a life long mission to wind up Liverpool fans. Scholes, though, simply got on with the job on the pitch.
Yet through all of this shyness off the pitch, Scholes possessed a vicious drive and will to win.
Aside from Scholes' personality, it is always sad to see such a magnificent player leave the game. He spent 17 years at Manchester United, making a total of 675 appearances and netting 150 goals and stands fourth in the all-time list of appearances for Manchester United.
He won 10 Premier League titles, three FA cups, two League Cups and two Champions League titles (though he missed out on the final in 1999 due to suspension).
He was quite simply a magnificent footballer, possessing a thunderous shot and a wonderful range of passing. At the peak of his career, he was one of the finest central midfielder's in the world and was pivotal in Manchester United's domination of the Premier League throughout the '90s and in the early '00s.
It is telling that one of Manchester United's poorest seasons in recent memory, 2005/06, came when Scholes missed much of the season with an eye injury. There were fears that this would in fact force him to retire, but Scholes was never one to give up easily. He returned and reinvented himself as more of a deep lying midfielder, playing a key role in Manchester United's three successive title wins between 2006 and 2009.
Unfortunately, Scholes brought his international career to an early end after being played out of position on the left of midfield under Sven Goran-Eriksson. Though quitting for such a reason may seem immature, Scholes was an excellent player who did not deserve to be treated so poorly, shifted out of position to accommodate the dysfunctional partnership between Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. However, it remains a great shame that Scholes quit England before he had even turned 30.
"Every time we used to play Manchester United, we always used to be scared of Paul Scholes. His vision, the way he sees the games, his goals ratio...He has indestructible mental strength and he is a genuine competitor." Thierry Henry
Undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation. He's almost untouchable in what he does. He makes the game look easy because he has so much natural ability." Zinedine Zidane
In the last 15 to 20 years, the best central midfielder that I have seen—the most complete—is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything. He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn't give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more than Xavi.
Though these quotes have been wheeled out numerous times by the press, they still say a lot about Scholes and the regard in which he is held in the game. Indeed, this is just a small selection of some of the world class players to have praised Scholes. Were I to compile every quote from within football praising Scholes, I'm afraid this article would go on for far too many long!
Manchester United will now seek a replacement for Scholes and are being linked with some superb players, the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Luka Modric.
However, there will never be another one quite like Paul Scholes.