Paul Scholes is one of those players who suddenly seemed to get better the moment he retired.
He is regarded among football fans as a player who was underappreciated in his time, and one who is only recognised by true students of the game.
His legacy has been somewhat fuelled by fabricated quotes attributed to his peers peddled out as truth by football ‘banter’ accounts for some guaranteed likes.
But while Scholes appreciation has become something of an in-joke in the murky realms of the internet, there’s no changing the fact he was a tremendously gifted player.
He won 11 Premier League titles for crying out loud. Eleven.
While many love Scholes for his sumptuous passing and penchant for Goal of the Month contenders, others hold him in such high regard for his drama-free, no-frills approach to a sport which breeds lunacy and hysteria.
Roy Keane once summed it up neatly when he said that Scholes didn’t like ‘celebrity bullshit’.
Nothing epitomises this more than his return to football in 2012.
Scholes had retired at the end of the 2010/11 season, bowing out with his tenth winners’ medal around his neck to generous applause from the Old Trafford faithful.
The club held a testimonial for him and the holy No18 shirt was passed to Ashley Young — it looked for all the world we had seen the last of the ginger maestro.
But in January of 2012, with Sir Alex Ferguson left frustrated by an injury crisis, Scholes answered the call to arms and came out of retirement just in time for a Manchester derby in the FA Cup.
At this point, most players would have demanded Nike sent them a lorry-load of boots to choose from, free of charge of course.
But not the aggressively down-to-Earth Scholes.
The two-time Champions League winner simply strolled into his local JBB Sports and picked himself up a pair of boots for the reasonable price of £40.
A few days later he was named in the matchday squad to face City.
United went 3-0 up at the Etihad thanks in part to a brace from Wayne Rooney.
But the hosts rallied in the second half and got one back through Aleksandar Kolorov’s wondrous left foot.
Fergie recognised the need to get the game back under control — enter Scholes.
The 37-year-old showed signs of rust in his first five minutes back and actually gave the ball away for Sergio Aguero’s goal to make it 3-2.
However, once his shop-bought boots softened, the old cogs began to turn.
The game finished 3-2 to United and Scholes ended with a pass completion rate of 97%.
It should have been a frantic last 20 minutes but the old pro ran his rivals ragged and lowered the tempo, allowing United to coast to a memorable victory on enemy soil.
We can think of only one or two players who, at the age of 37, would be able to play a significant role in a Manchester derby having not kicked a ball in anger for six months.
He retired for the second time in 2013 having added another Premier League title to his triple-reinforced trophy cabinet.
Truly a master of his craft.