No regrets from Scholes as he prepares for the next chapter

United's new coach tells Ian Herbert why bridging gap with Barcelona is a challenge he and the manager are looking forward to

For the players, it was a day for standing on the sun-baked Carrington training pitch, gazing at the results of Wayne Rooney's hair-raising summer, but for the man who has now left them all behind there were no distractions – just an overwhelming sense of the enormity of Manchester United's task if they are to bridge the chasm and present a meaningful challenge to the reigning European champions, ten months from now.

Paul Scholes has scaled a few peaks in his time with Sir Alex Ferguson but he has little hesitation in saying that eclipsing this Barcelona is the manager's toughest challenge in nearly a quarter of a century at Old Trafford. Scholes was offered a few straws to clutch at. Nicklas Bendtner's late miss in last season's Nou Camp tie, it was put to him, could have seen Arsène Wenger, rather than Pep Guardiola, advance to the Champions League final. But the latest recruit to United's coaching staff just wasn't buying that.

"If you look over those two Arsenal games – Jesus Christ, it could have been any score... " he said. Scholes hasn't played back the footage of the Wembley Champions League final yet but his assessment of the game which brought his 656th and last United appearance, from the bench as the Catalans won 3-1, suggested it will always haunt him. "Yes it was bad, probably as bad as [the 2-0 Champions League final defeat] two years ago in Rome really," Scholes said. "You would have hoped that in that two years you would have been able to bridge the gap a bit really. We were a million miles away from them. When you are taught a lesson like that – not once, but twice – it stays with you."

These thoughts are not being shared in Scholes' natural environment, it must be said. Day One of the rest of Scholes' life has brought him to the improbable surrounds of the Manchester offices of Grant Thornton. The chartered accountants are sponsoring and helping organise his testimonial against Eric Cantona's New York Cosmos next month.

But the searing insight of Scholes is still there, the fundamental quality to which he ascribes Barcelona's greatness being neither the genius of Xavi nor Andres Iniesta, the player who asked for his shirt at Wembley, but sheer selflessness.

"I think the biggest thing about these players is their unselfishness – the whole team's. I know [Lionel] Messi is the one who scores 50 goals a year but among the team he is not the big star," Scholes said. "As a group, they are all stars and there's not one who stands out who wants to take the credit. They are just an unselfish team in which not one of them is out for glory."

Which can only invite comparisons with the player whose threat to leave Old Trafford last October revealed only the power of one ego. It was the statement Rooney issued two hours before a Champions League tie questioning the "continued ability" of United "to attract the top players in the world" which cut United most deeply and though Rooney has apologised, writer Steve Bartram's new book about the 19th title season tellingly quotes John O'Shea suggesting that the striker later told team-mates that he had "done what he had to do, basically."

"I think he was a little bit disrespectful," Scholes reflected. "He held his hands up afterwards and said sorry. He definitely regretted the statement." This was just not the Manchester United way, it was put to Scholes. "No. I don't think you see it at other clubs either, do you?"

This individual has never required many words to make a point with impact and he does not take up the opportunity to say it was important to keep Rooney. "Manchester United can lose any player and they would cope with it," he said. "I don't think it matters who it is. When Roy Keane left, you wondered who could replace him, but it just happens. You go back years, think about Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis, Paul Ince."

But Rooney is still around and Scholes – who will discuss with Sir Alex Ferguson next month whether the coaching role which he has accepted will, as the manager has suggested, involved the reserve team – sees him as a future embodiment of Barcelona's quality. "Wayne can be United's Messi," was how he put it.

The Liverpudlian's game is still incomplete, Scholes believes. The barren spells which have punctuated his career have not yet been put behind him and though the moments of hot-headedness will remain always, Rooney might fill the role which once made Scholes such an abundant source of goals.

"Yes I can see [Rooney in my role] a little bit," Scholes said. "He did that in a couple of games towards the end of the season – dropped back into midfield and did well. I played up front like Wayne when I was younger, but I dropped back because I was too slow. Wayne is quicker than I was. [He might need] a little bit more discipline mainly – in his positional sense and helping his back four out."

The first time in 20 years, yesterday, the sun had risen on a new United season in which he had no part. "Weird. I woke up today, put on the news and saw all the lads going back in for pre-season training. The first step," Scholes reflected.

There will be a holiday now and preparations for the testimonial which, as a concession to those who want him in the spotlight, he will actually be present for. It's a month since Scholes joked that he was considering having the match "beamed live on video-link to Oldham" so that he could watch from the seclusion of his own home. A total of 50,000 tickets have already been sold.

There are no regrets, he insisted, and no second thoughts about a decision to retire which he made after United's home game with Everton on 23 April, in which he played no role. Except the thought of what a place in that Barcelona side would have felt like. "Who wouldn't have fancied it because it is a great footballing team," Scholes said. "I'm just not sure I would have got in."

Tickets are available for Paul Scholes' testimonial which pits Manchester United against New York Cosmos on Friday 5 August. For details ring 0161 868 8000.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor