Paul Scholes has admitted he was devastated when midfield partner and ‘best mate’ Nicky Butt left Manchester United.
Scholes and Butt were part of the famous class of 92 who came through the ranks at Old Trafford, including Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and the Neville brothers.
The youngsters, nurtured by youth team coach Eric Harrison, had all broken into the first-team by 1996 and enjoyed a special period of success together under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Giggs, Gary Neville and Scholes enjoyed unprecedented success over two decades, but some of the original class of 92 were inevitably separated as the manager continued to evolve his winning side.
Butt left United for Newcastle in 2004 after falling out of favour under Ferguson.
The midfielder left Old Trafford with six Premier League winners medals and a Champions League, and Scholes has revealed his sadness when his close friend departed.
“It was all part of football. When you start out with those five or six lads you hope that you’ll be there for the next 20 years,” Scholes told DAZN, as quoted by the Mirror.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. You lose people along the way. Nicky went and Nicky was my best mate – I’d grown up with him since I was 12 or 13. You’re devastated, I really was devastated.”
“Phil Neville went, Roy Keane went, some really big characters,” Scholes continued. “Look players have to go they might come to a certain age where their legs weren’t quite what they were.
“The manager knew how to get the best out of those players, whether they’d play 20 games a season but he always knew when the time was right for them to go.
“Sometimes the player didn’t always agree with that but that’s what it was all about; changing teams and then the excitement of bringing players in.”
Ferguson’s ruthlessness enabled his longevity at Old Trafford as he would make the cutthroat decisions needed in the interests of the club.
As a result, the Champions League winning squads he created that Scholes featured in were two of the greatest English football has seen.
Scholes’ friend Butt is now in charge of first-team development at United, helping the new breed of talented young players find a path through to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad.