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By ESPN Staff

England exile still suits Scholes

Paul Scholes has admitted he was flattered when he was asked to return to the England fold - but has no regrets at rejecting coach Steve McClaren's advances.

Since succeeding Sven-Goran Eriksson as national team boss in the summer, McClaren has twice contacted Scholes in a bid to get the Manchester United star to reverse his decision to quit the international scene after Euro 2004.

Scholes did think about the prospect. But, after weighing up the pros and cons, decided he had reached the correct decision in the first place.

'It wasn't a straightforward decision,' revealed the Salford-born star.

'Of course it is flattering when the England manager comes and asks you to go back.

'I did think about it for a while but in the end I decided against it.

'I have been happy the last two years not playing for England and just basically I decided I didn't need to go back.'

Scholes' decision has been backed by Sir Alex Ferguson, who knows just how important the 31-year-old is to his side and how much he values time away from the game with his wife and three children.

'When you are in your 30s it is not easy to trek all over Europe playing for your country,' said the United boss.

'International football these days is not two or three matches. There are probably six or seven games, with the World Cup and European Championships on top and you can be away for eight or nine days at a time with double headers in qualifying game.

'That is a lot of football and something you have to consider seriously, particularly if you value family life and I think that was partly behind Paul's decision.'

Although, in his usual understated manner, Scholes downplays the impact international retirement has had on his form at club level, Ferguson is feeling the benefit.

So far this season, the midfielder has been at the peak of his powers, inspiring United to their current position at the Premiership summit even though he still retains some small sight problem with the eye injury which forced him to miss half of last season.

He is expected to be part of the United midfield at Celtic Park tomorrow when his side hunt the Champions League point from their 'Battle of Britain' clash with the Scottish title winners which would seal their passage into the last 16.

However, rather bluntly, Scholes believes he has had better days, notably in the scoring department, where he has managed just two so far this season.

'I have played a lot better than this,' he said.

'I am frustrated at not scoring many goals for a start. I like scoring but I only have two so far. I would like it to be more.'

Although tomorrow night's atmosphere promises to be one of the most intense United's players have performed in, Scholes is unlikely to be too bothered.

After all, when England beat Scotland at Hampden Park in the Euro 2000 play-offs, he was the man who scored both goals.

'That was definitely a career highlight,' smiled Scholes dragging out the pain for Ferguson who was sat alongside him.

'For an Englishman to score twice against Scotland at Hampden Park was a great experience.'