Perfect homecoming

Paul the pantheon of Manchester United greats.-AP

The smile on Paul Scholes' face when he scored in his first EPL appearance at Old Trafford since hanging up his boots showed his appetite for the game is still as big as ever. And it would be no surprise to see the Manchester United midfielder doing a lap of honour at Old Trafford with yet another medal around his neck in May, writes Pete Thompson.

The word legend is banded around all too often, but Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes undoubtedly comes into that category.

When the flame-haired playmaker announced his decision to retire at the end of last season, the English Premier League champions had a major void to fill. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson never really replaced Scholes, but little did he know that he had no need to do so as the former England midfielder decided to make a dramatic return ahead of the FA Cup clash with Manchester City earlier in January.

Scholes slotted straight back in and came off the bench in the victory over City, spraying the ball around like he had never been away. And on January 14, he marked his comeback appearance at Old Trafford with the opening goal as United coasted to victory against Bolton in the EPL.

United missed the 37-year-old's vision and experience and Scholes' return will spare Ferguson the need to invest in a new midfielder.

Scholes is one of the greatest players of his generation, respected not only in England but all over the world and his talent was recognised at an early age. Salford-born Scholes signed for United as a trainee in 1991 and was handed a professional deal with the EPL champions in 1993. He made his debut in a League Cup tie against Port Vale in September 1994 and scored both goals in a 2-1 victory.

Ferguson handed Scholes his EPL debut against Ipswich soon after as United's crop of talented youngsters, including the likes of David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, continued their rise through the ranks and once again the young midfielder was on the score-sheet.

The following season Scholes was given more playing time and he was building a reputation as an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal. He picked up his first EPL title winners' medal that year and United also won the FA Cup, with Scholes scoring 10 goals in his first full season. The Red Devils retained their title the following year and Scholes played an important role for Ferguson's side.

That was just the start of United's success and the Old Trafford outfit won the UEFA Champions League, EPL and FA Cup in the 1998-99 campaign.

Scholes missed the dramatic UEFA Champions League final win over Bayern Munich due to suspension but that did not take the gloss off such a remarkable achievement.

By this time Scholes had forced his way into the England team and although he did not experience success on the international stage, the United star further enhanced his reputation with some fine displays for his country at the World Cup in France.

Scholes helped England reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup four years later and in the 2002-03 campaign he scored a personal best 14 league goals for the season as United won their eighth EPL title.

After playing all four of England's games at Euro 2004, the United midfielder took the shock decision to retire from international football later that summer.

He then had to wait until 2007 to get his hands on the EPL trophy once again, and the following year United won the UEFA Champions League by beating Chelsea on penalties after he had scored the winner against Barcelona in the semifinal.

Yet more honours followed for Scholes, who had become one of United's finest players ever and he rejected a plea from England coach Fabio Capello to come out of retirement and play at the World Cup in 2010.

After helping United become champions of England for a record 19th time and experiencing the disappointment of losing the UEFA Champions League final to Barcelona last May, Scholes called time on his playing days and took up a coaching role with United.

United fans thought they had seen the last of the midfield maestro, but he had other ideas and approached Ferguson to surprisingly make himself available for selection once again.

Scholes has slotted straight back in and the smile on his face when he scored in his first EPL appearance at Old Trafford since hanging up his boots showed his appetite for the game is still as big as ever. And it would be no surprise to see him doing a lap of honour at Old Trafford with yet another medal around his neck in May.

Scholes is married to Claire and has three children — two boys and a girl. He is understood to be driving an Audi.

FACTFILE Name: Paul Scholes Position: Midfield Club: Manchester United D.O.B: 16/11/1974 England caps: 66 England goals: 14 Moment to remember

Scoring both goals for England in the first leg of their Euro 2000 qualifier against Scotland at Hampden Park.

Moment to forget

Getting sent off for United in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley last year.

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