Scholes sets his sights on coaching

United midfielder finally admits it's time to consider life after the legs have gone
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The Independent Football

The prospect of life after football is one which has never absorbed Paul Scholes, whose general thoughts about retirement have included little more than a greater contribution to the family school run in Saddleworth and perhaps the occasional appearance for Middleton and Blackley's cricket club's second XI.

But the 34-year-old, whose match-defining performance for Manchester United against Stoke City on Saturday reflected his seeming agelessness, has finally decided to starting planning, and coaching will be a part of the plan, he revealed yesterday. "I'm going to give the coaching a go and see how it goes," he said. "I'll probably start looking at that in the next couple of weeks, hopefully, and see how I feel doing that."

Scholes, whose United contract runs until next June, admits he is not sure how he would deal with the young players at United these days. "You try to show more of an example than you did when you were younger because these kids do look up to you," he said. "But the young lads have so much confidence nowadays, they don't need much advice. They are so confident and have so much ability that they don't really need to change."

It is also hard to avoid the impression that the game these days is not, in certain respects, how it used to be in the early years of this decade when he was at the zenith of his powers. Are Manchester City the new threat to United? Not really, Scholes says. And they are certainly nothing like the Leeds United side who represented such competition in the early 1990s.

"City probably aren't the closest of rivals, but in terms of geography, if you like – they are close rivals and it's a game you want to win," Scholes said. "But Leeds away was just pure hatred towards us, but we always did well when we went there and we thrived on it. Liverpool is the same. We have done quite well there, although we have lost a couple of times, which is no surprise because it's a hard place to go."

The players Scholes has most enjoyed playing with reflect the days when, more than pulling the strings as he did at the Britannia Stadium three days ago, he was a high-scoring midfielder too. "I loved playing with Teddy [Sheringham], Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole. Roy Keane, Nicky Butt. I could name 20 to 30 players," he said.

And his most treasured season was 2002-03, when playing in tandem with Ruud van Nistelrooy he scored his highest tally in one United campaign – 20, as United clinched their eighth Premier League title. "I enjoyed that season when I played a lot of games up front with Ruud," Scholes said. "I think I managed about 20 goals that season, but that's the one I enjoyed the most."

The best remembered goals belong to that era, also. "There are a few of them. The one against Newcastle in the [1999] FA Cup final was nice because it's always a dream as a kid. I scored one in an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal when we won 1-0 [in 2004]. I remember scoring a volley at Bradford – that's about it really. The one against Inter Milan in 1999 wasn't the best of goals, but it was important at the time because it got us to the semi-final."

For now, Scholes' efforts to maintain a prominent playing role are his overriding concern. "You still want to impress, but the coaches are always asking how you feel and whether you want to take a day off here or there," he said. "I like to stay and do a bit of shooting practice at the end of training. My goals have dried up a bit in recent years and I'd like to get back scoring.

"I'm not sure if my relationship with the manager has changed, although I suppose I'm in his office a lot more these days with him telling me I'm not playing. Apart from that, it's as it was. I've always been quite relaxed and if anything, I'm a bit more relaxed than I've ever been."