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May 31, 2011

United veteran Scholes retires

Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has retired from playing professional football at the age of 36, but will join the club's coaching staff.

• Carter: Who can replace Scholes?
• Owen keen to extend Man Utd stay

Scholes, who has spent his entire career at Old Trafford, becomes the latest of Fergie's Fledglings to call it a day after Gary Neville hung up his boots in February.

The England midfielder formed the core of one of United's greatest ever teams along with Neville, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, which culminated in winning the Treble in 1999, though Scholes missed the final through suspension.

Fergie's Fledglings broke up in the subsequent years but Giggs, Scholes and the elder Neville continued to star as Ferguson built a new team. In 2008, nine years after missing out on a glorious night in Barcelona, Scholes started as United lifted the European Cup again, beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has frequently repeated this season that he wanted Scholes to continue for another year but, despite impressing at the start of the season, the Salford-born midfielder's powers had seemingly been waning in the latter part of the season.

Scholes, who will carry away a reputation for genius on the pitch and for humility off it, having shunned the celebrity spotlight his entire career, insisted deciding to quit was not an easy decision.

"I am not a man of many words but I can honestly say that playing football is all I have ever wanted to do and to have had such a long and successful career at Manchester United has been a real honour.

"This was not a decision that I have taken lightly but I feel now is the right time for me to stop playing. To have been part of the team that helped the club reach that 19th title is a great privilege."

Ferguson paid tribute to the midfielder, who has wowed fans since netting two goals on his debut against Port Vale in 1994, and revealed that Scholes will be joining the club's coaching staff.

"What more can I say about Paul Scholes that I haven't said before?" Ferguson said. "We are going to miss a truly unbelievable player.

"Paul has always been fully committed to this club and I am delighted he will be joining the coaching staff from next season. Paul has always been inspirational to players of all ages and we know that will continue in his new role."

United chief executive David Gill added: "It is very sad day for Manchester United fans around the world. We all know that Paul was one of the players that came through the ranks of the academy system in the 90s and has established himself as one of the greatest players to ever wear the United shirt.

"It is very important that the club keeps the associated with these great players and we are delighted that Paul will join the coaching staff.''

His final game for United was Saturday's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona, though fans will be able to show their final appreciation at a testimonial match in August.

United team-mate Rio Ferdinand led the tributes that flooded Twitter in the aftermath of the announcement.

Ferdinand said: "Paul Scholes retires from football....the BEST player of his generation, loved every minute of playing football with him. #legend.

"Paul Scholes aka Sat Nav went from a scoring midfielder to a dictator of the game (changed his game while still at top of the game) #genius."

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