LONDON – Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending the trophy-laden career of a famously low-key player widely regarded as one of the most technically gifted of his generation.
The 36-year-old Scholes made 676 appearances for United after making his debut for the club in 1994 and was the midfield heartbeat of a team that has dominated English soccer for the past two decades.
"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 honor," said Scholes, who eschewed the celebrity lifestyle of many modern day soccer players and rarely gave interviews.
"This was not a decision that I have taken lightly, but I feel now is the right time for me to stop playing."
Scholes won 10 Premier League titles — and 24 trophies in total — with United, scoring 150 goals, but was no longer a regular choice in the first team by the end of the recently completed season, leading to growing speculation about his playing future. His last appearance for the northwest power was as a late substitute in Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley.
Earlier in the month, he had helped United claim a record 19th English title, overhauling Liverpool as the country's most successful league team. He made 66 appearances for England before retiring from international soccer in 2004 to concentrate on his club career.
A one-club man, Scholes said he will stay at United by taking up a coaching role starting next season.
"What more can I say about Paul Scholes that I haven't said before," United manager Alex 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."
Starting out as a deep-lying forward, Scholes eventually dropped back into central midfield where his touch, technique and vision could be more effectively utilized. He never lost his eye for the goal, though, and turned his late runs into the penalty box into an art form.
Scholes had a particularly fierce shot and was always dangerous from outside the box.
"He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn't give possession away," Xavi said. "If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more."
The only part of Scholes' game that let him down was his tackling, which was often late and clumsy. He missed the dramatic win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final because of suspension, but started in 2008 when United beat Chelsea on penalties in Moscow to claim its third European Cup.
"It is very sad day for Manchester United fans around the world," said United chief executive David Gill. "We all know that Paul was one of the players that came through the ranks of the academy system in the 1990s and has established himself as one of the greatest players to ever wear the United shirt."
After Gary Neville, Scholes is the second member of the batch of young talent to burst into United's first team during the early 1990s, which also included David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, to retire this season.
"Paul Scholes- The Best! Great Player, Person, Friend," Neville posted on Twitter.
United defender Rio Ferdinand used his Twitter account to describe Scholes as "the BEST player of his generation."
"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)," Ferdinand wrote.
Current England coach Fabio Capello tried to tempt him back to the national team just a few weeks before last year's World Cup in South Africa but Scholes declined, saying he hadn't been given enough time to make the decision.