Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he had to persuade Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes not to retire at the end of this season.
The 35-year-old signed a contract extension to remain at Old Trafford for another year last month, but Ferguson admits the agreement only came after he had a heart-to-heart with his player — who was strongly considering hanging up his boots for good — and told him that he still had the quality to play at the highest level.
And that sentiment was vindicated when Scholes scored the late winner in last month's Manchester derby.
"I did speak to him," Ferguson told United's official magazine Inside United.
"He'd intimated that he may retire at the end of the season.
"I said, 'I'll decide when you retire. Look, Paul, you can play there's no question of that. Your ability's there, there's no deterioration in your actual play'.
"When you get to his age, and the same goes for Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, there's a deterioration in the physical aspect of it. That's natural. We all face that.
"But in terms of his ability, there's no deterioration whatsoever.
"In fact, Paul's every bit as good, if not even better, because the experience he's added to the ability he's got means he's a big asset to us — as he was against City. He helped to control the match."
Like Giggs, Scholes retired from international football prematurely — after Euro 2004 and before he even reached his 30th birthday. Tipped in some quarters for a shock recall by Fabio Capello for this summer's World Cup, Ferguson doesn't believe Scholes has any regrets about his decision — and won't be changing it even if the Italian comes calling.
"I don't think Paul's the type the feel bitter about that or feel he'd lost something in his life," said Ferguson.
"He made his decision based on his family and I think it helped him for the initial couple of years after he retired from the international scene.
"But he had a great career at that level. He should have no recriminations because it's allowed him to move his career on here to the extent that we've given him a new contract.
"Age always comes into it and Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes are not going to last forever.
"But they're defying everyone at the moment in terms of their durability and enthusiasm to play. How they've looked after themselves has been critical and a monumental part of why they're still here."
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