Manchester United legend Paul Scholes admits he was ‘devastated’ when Nicky Butt left the club, describing the midfielder as his ‘best mate’ at Old Trafford.
Scholes came through the ranks with Butt, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers and David Beckham at the Theatre of Dreams and the class of 1992 eventually broke into the first team in 1996, though Giggs was considerably earlier.
Sir Alex Ferguson sold the likes of Andrei Kanchelskis, Paul Ince and Mark Hughes to make way for the class of 1992 and they more than repaid their faith in him, with the likes of Scholes, Giggs and Gary Neville remaining first team players for close to two decades.
However, Beckham’s departure to Real Madrid in 2003 started the initial break-up of the class of 1992, while Phil Neville left for Everton in 2005.
Butt was no longer a first-team regular by the time he joined Newcastle in 2004 but Scholes admits it was the Manchester-born midfielder’s departure that affected him most, as he had grown up with Butt and was best friends with the England international.
‘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.
‘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.’
Ferguson has admitted in the past that Phil Neville’s departure was particularly painful but that he had to let the defender go for the good of his career.
Beckham fell out with Ferguson, while £25m was deemed a good price for the England captain in 2003.
The Scot was renown for his brutal discarding of players but Scholes admits it became easier over time to adjust.
‘Phil Neville went, Roy Keane went, some really big characters,’ continued Scholes.
‘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. Y
‘You mention players there like Teddy [Sheringham], [Andy] Coley, [Dwight] Yorkey such brilliant attacking players and [Jaap] Stam – what a top centre half he was.
‘He had a system and he just tried to replace the top players he had with other top players who were similar in that position. That’s why it was such a constant continuation of a being a top team.’