By Simon Mullock
Even now, more than two months after Manchester City became champions, Paul Scholes still can’t bring himself to watch Vincent Kompany lifting the Premier League trophy.
He has seen the injury-time strike by Sergio Aguero that so dramatically ripped the title from Manchester United’s grasp on goal difference in the final seconds of an epic season. But for someone like Scholes, who was born on the red side of a rivalry that splits Manchester, that’s about all he can take.
Aguero wheeling away to celebrate the goal that defeated QPR at an ecstatic Etihad – and left United beaten and broken despite their own victory at Sunderland – is an image Scholes and his team-mates will carry with them into the new campaign.
And so too is the bitter acknowledgement that, despite United’s failure to defend an eight-point lead in the final six games of the season, City got exactly what they deserved.
Scholes conceded: “You always say the best team wins the league – and City were the best team last year.
“The football they played for most of the season was fantastic. As much as I don’t want to admit it, they were good to watch and probably played the best football.
“So from that aspect, they were the best team and deserved to win it. They have raised the bar and it’s up to us to now kick on and do even better than they did. I haven’t seen all of what happened at City on the final day, although I have seen little bits of them celebrating when Aguero scored.
“I haven’t even seen them lifting the trophy.
“But it’s always a motivating factor when you lose the league – and perhaps we will be motivated even more after what happened.
“It isn’t nice when you see another team winning the title on the last day of the season. You have that picture in your head of them celebrating and you don’t want it to happen again.”
At one point City had seemed certain to turn the race for the title into a procession – before Scholes answered a New Year plea from Sir Alex Ferguson to come out of retirement.
His first game back saw Scholes come off the bench to help United end the Blues’ defence of the FA Cup, before 11 wins and a draw in their next 12 games seemed to make a 20th title a formality.
But defeats at Wigan and City, either side of a 4-4 home draw with Everton, opened the door once more for Roberto Mancini’s City men.
At the age of 37, Scholes has seen most things, but he admitted: “I still don’t really understand what happened.
“We should have won the league, and we didn’t. In the end, we failed. To be in the position we were, eight points clear with six games to go, well… it’s not like us.”
There’s no doubt what Scholes will be aiming for this season.
“The Premier League is always the one you want to win first,” he added. “To be the champions of your own country is always the main aim. We have been lucky enough to do that a few times.
“Now we’re hoping there is another title for us at the end of next season.
Scholes has hinted that he would have ended his international retirement for Euro 2012 – if only Roy Hodgson had asked him.
The Manchester United midfielder was touted for a sensational recall after spectacularly answering Sir Alex Ferguson’s SOS for his club at the turn of the year.
Scholes, 37, has admitted that he regretted rejecting the chance of going to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after Fabio Capello asked him to end his self-imposed Three Lions exile.
But he never got the call from Hodgson. Scholes said: “I didn’t go to the Euros because I wasn’t offered the chance.
“It was flattering to be talked about, but I wasn’t asked, so it means nothing”
No such problems about the decision to carry on with United this season.
Scholes revealed: “The manager didn’t have to twist my arm. He said ‘You’re going to play again, aren’t you?’ And I said ‘yeah’.”