Paul Scholes has revealed that his Manchester United return was kept a secret from the rest of the team right up until they were in the dressing room before the Manchester Derby in 2012.
After talking to Alex Ferguson and Mike Phelan, the United legend decided to come back out of retirement in the midst of a first team injury crisis, but his manager decided against letting anyone in the squad know until moments before Scholes took to the field.
Speaking on BT Sport in the spring of 2018, Scholes explained:
I think he just wanted to keep it quiet. We were playing City away and he said 'Just come to the hotel ... Just come to the staff table and have a glass of wine, or maybe half a glass of wine, with us. Don't say a word.
Then I get to the ground the next day and I know what's going on so I'm obviously a little bit nervous at that point, wondering what the lads are going to think. So then we get to the dressing room and my shirt's there and I'm named as a substitute.
He also explained, that contrary to popular belief, it was not a case that the injury crisis drove United to approach him. It was Scholes who approached them.
[It was] Mick Phelan, who was assistant manager, I went to see. I went into his office and I was nervous about doing it, because I thought 'What are they going to say? What if they say no?'
But I had made my mind up. If he'd have said no, I'd have gone on to play for somebody else. I was coming back, whatever happened.
After speaking with Phelan, he then broached the idea with Ferguson.
Day after, still nervous, I knocked on his door and said 'Look, I'm thinking of coming back to play.' And he said 'Great.' straight away. 'Let me ring David Gill and we'll sort your contract out.'
Scholes had of course been keeping himself fit by taking part in training sessions when he was coaching the United reserves but upon his first team return, there was the small matter of sorting out a pair of new boots: "I had to sort some boots out. I had to go down to the local shop and buy a pair of cheap boots. I didn't have a sponsor, we couldn't let Nike know because it would be obvious I was coming back."
"I didn't know at the time but the boots I got were a little bit of rip-off, I think. About £50."
As many will remember, his return against Man City didn't exactly go to plan. Within a few minutes of coming on he gave a wayward pass, which allowed Sergio Aguero sneak in for a goal and bring City back into the game: "The game I came on, we were 3-0 up at the time and it went to 3-2. I gave the first goal away and I thought 'What am I doing?'"
Scholes would stay on for another season and finish his career with one last Premier League medal but on a personal level, he still regrets not walking away sooner.
I really wish I'd stopped then [at the end of the 2011/12 season]. I was definitely gone this time. I remember playing a game against Tottenham at home. It was only the third or fourth game of the [2012/13] season, I think we got beat at home 3-2. I played alright in possession but I remember Dembele just cruising past me ... Gareth Bale ... I know they cruise past people but I was watching them, thinking 'I can't do this any more.'
I wanted to retire early on again during that season but I just thought it would look a bit embarrassing. I had to stay around and just try and help my team when I could.
You can watch the full discussion below.
Have you heard the story of Paul Scholes' Man Utd comeback?
• Jones and Fabio were playing CM ?
• Fergie kept it a secret ?
• Had to buy new boots from JJB ?
Scholesey, like you've never heard him before... ?pic.twitter.com/lxLDNKI161
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 26, 2018