A host of Manchester United players have heralded the return of Paul Scholes from retirement, while boss Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed the former England international ‘regretted his decision’ to quit at the end of last season.
Scholes was a surprise late addition to United’s squad for their 3-2 FA Cup 3rd round win over rivals Manchester City, with two-goal hero Wayne Rooney revealing he didn’t find out about the former England international's return until before the game in the dressing room.
“I was surprised. We didn’t find out until we got in the dressing room and saw him getting changed,” said Rooney.
“It is obviously great as he’s a great footballer and is a very experienced player. He brought a bit of calmness to our play towards the end of the game which helped us see it out.
“We just thought he was coming along for the game but we saw him getting changed and somebody asked him what he was doing. And then we saw the number 22 Scholes shirt, which was a bit weird seeing him with that number. But it’s great as he is a well-liked lad around the dressing room.”
The 37-year-old started the game on the substitutes bench after Ferguson revealed he had re-signed until the end of the season, and was bought on for Nani for the final half-hour of the match.
Ferguson admitted he had spoken to Scholes some weeks ago about his return from retirement, and had stepped up his training ahead of the game against City.
“For the last few weeks he has been training very hard with the Reserves and doing a lot of work in the gymnasium,” the Scot said.
“He said he regrets retiring so there were no negatives for me. The players were delighted, I was delighted and I know the fans are delighted.
“We have stepped up his training for the last few weeks and he started to take part in our sessions during the week. It is a terrific addition to our squad at a very important part of the season.”
Younger players in the United squad admitted their excitement about playing alongside one of the most revered players in the club’s history, with both Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling leading the tributes to the ever-green Scholes.
Seeing him in the dressing room just gave me a lift straight away,” said Welbeck.
“Before the game he was on the bench and everyone knows what Paul Scholes can do. He just dictates the gameplay and it is fantastic to have him back.
“It was a great day overall and everybody was happy to get through it and I’m delighted for the whole club and the fans as well.”
Smalling added: “It was a massive boost for all of us. I was really disappointed when he called it a day last year.I spoke to Danny (Welbeck) before the game, we were really excited that he’s back and it gave the whole squad a boost.
“We had seen him take part in some sessions before but I didn’t quite expect him to be on the bench until I saw him getting changed to be honest. It was a welcome boost.”