Scholes regrets rejecting England World Cup invite
PAUL SCHOLES has admitted he regrets turning down the chance to play for England in the World Cup. He claims he might have agreed to go to South Africa if he had been asked by Fabio Capello, rather than his No 2, and given more than two hours to decide.
The Manchester United midfielder, who retired from international football at the age of 29 following Euro 2004, was handed a surprise invitation to claim a place in Capello's 23-man World Cup party less than 24 hours before the squad was due to be announced in May.
Six years after winning the last of his 66 caps, the 35-year-old declined the offer made via a telephone conversation with Franco Baldini, the England general manager.
But rather than express relief at avoiding involvement in England's latest failure at a major tournament, Scholes now concedes that he may have made the wrong decision.
He said: "I don't look back and think the World Cup didn't go well for England because I didn't go. But after time, perhaps after a week, a couple of weeks, I thought maybe I should have gone. This was a chance to play in the World Cup and I turned it down.
"It wasn't until a week before the tournament, when you start seeing all the build-up, that I thought maybe I made the wrong decision.
"But while I might have made the wrong decision, I am not saying I would have made a difference."
Scholes, on United's pre-season tour of North America, previously rejected overtures from Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren to end his international exile.
And although he has ruled out making himself available for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Scholes admits his World Cup decision might have gone the other way had Capello, rather than Baldini, made the call in the hours before the squad announcement.
"It was difficult," Scholes said. "Franco Baldini rang me the day before the squad was announced and I probably just needed a bit more time.
"It wasn't the manager who rang me. Would that have made a difference? I don't know. I don't know Baldini and I don't really know Capello, but maybe it might have meant more. It was still flattering, but it's been a long time since I retired and I had to make a decision in two hours or something.
"I am not saying it definitely would have been 'yes' had I had more time, but I think it might have been.
"I didn't expect the call. It wasn't even on my mind. I just had a phone call asking me if I fancied it and saying I had a couple of hours to decide. When I retired, I said I would never go back, so it was a big decision."
Having rejected the chance to play in his third World Cup, Scholes instead spent his summer break coaching youngsters in Florida and opening new facilities for Chadderton Park Juniors in Oldham.
But he saw enough of England's dismal four-game campaign to admit that the tournament failed to take off for Wayne Rooney and the rest of the squad.
He said: "I am not saying I would have made a difference had I been there, but with regards to Wayne, I play with him every week, I know what he wants and the rest of the players (at United) know what he wants.
"I am not saying the England players don't know what he wants because he has been successful with them for the last four to six years. But for some reason, it just didn't work out for the team."
Restoring Rooney to his form of last season, when he scored 34 goals in all competitions for United, will be as crucial for Alex Ferguson's team as squeezing at least one more year from the legs of Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
The continual threat from Chelsea and the emerging force of Manchester City will not recede this season and Scholes admits that resisting Chelsea and repelling City will be the twin pillars of United's challenge this season.
He said: "The last thing we want is City above us. It hasn't happened since I have been here and hopefully it won't do.
"They have bought so many players, but whether they can gel together remains to be seen.
"Chelsea will be the big threat. The rest you just do not know." (© Daily Telegraph, London)