United talisman Scholes grateful he decided not to hang up boots

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The Independent Football

Paul Scholes has admitted that at Christmas last year he thought he would have retired by now.

The veteran Manchester United star is currently one of the most talked about players in the Premier League.

The England manager, Fabio Capello, tried – and failed – to talk him out of international retirement in order to play a part in England's ultimately dismal World Cup campaign and successive man-of-the-match performances in the Community Shield and opening day Premier League win over Newcastle United confirmed the 35-year-old was in top form once more.

Yet, while 2010 will go down as one of Scholes' best years as a professional, in his eyes, 2009 was one of the worst.

In an interview for MUTV with the former United European Cup winner Paddy Crerand, Scholes acknowledged yesterday that things were so bad, he was seriously considering whether to hang up his boots.

"At Christmas last season I did not think I would be playing in this one," Scoles admitted.

"I wasn't playing well enough.

"The season before last I had an injury for three months and then from Christmas onwards my form wasn't brilliant. Leading up to Christmas last year it still wasn't great.

"I wasn't playing as much as I would have liked but you need to be playing well to get into the team.

"I set myself high standards. I want to feel as though I am contributing to the team. If I am not doing that, what is the point of being here"" Scholes asked.

Fortunately, Sir Alex Ferguson had other ideas.

The United manager reassured Scholes that he was still making a valuable contribution to the Red Devils' cause and, after taking the club had come within a point of what would have his 10th Premier League title, Capello made his move.

Scholes has already admitted he regrets saying no to the under-fire England chief.

However, having made the most of the summer break does mean he is fresh at the moment and ready to make a positive impact when his appearances start to become rationed as the games mount up.

"The manager has handled me, Ryan and Gary the same way for the last couple of seasons and I am sure this season will be no different," Scholes said. If I am playing well enough, maybe I will play 25 or 30 games. You want to play every game, but at our age you can't."

Scholes has now put aside any talk of retirement and intends to keep going as long as his legs will permit him.

Ferguson recently spoke of the possibility that United's ageing heroes could maintain a career at the highest level until they were 40.

Yet even that date is not too far away, leaving the Salford-born player to contemplate what lies ahead.

"I want to stay in football," he said.

"I started my coaching badges towards the end of last season. Hopefully, I can get the first part done at some point this year."

The Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung believes there is still plenty of room for improvement from the club's players.

Two home victories over Newcastle and West Ham and a draw at Fulham to start the Premier League campaign represent the minimum required by Ferguson.

United are third in the table, two points behind the defending champions Chelsea who are the only team to still have a 100 per cent record.

But Park points out that there is plenty of football to be played and United's form will get better.

"We're pleased to have won two of our three games, but we know we can still improve," Park said.

"We are experienced enough to know that as we get more games under our belt, our qualities will shine through.

"It has been a good start for Chelsea but we are not worried about that as it is a very long season.

"Each team has their ups and downs and the real test for Chelsea will come when things are not going so well for them."