Manchester United goalkeeper Paul Woolston has announced his retirement from professional football at just 23.

The talented youngster has struggled to get back to fitness as he suffered from injuries and underwent two operations. The decision of calling time on his short career came after a lengthy rehabilitation battle in recent years.

The former England youth international took to Twitter on Wednesday and say:

Never thought I would have to write this at 23 but this chapter has had to come to an end. I can look back proudly on what I’ve achieved in my career but I am excited about what’s in store for the future. A new chapter awaits.

Man United did not specify what sort of injury had forced him into early retirement but transfermarkt claim Woolston has been suffering from a hip problem.

The English club’s first-team goalkeepers, David de Gea and Dean Henderson paid tribute to Woolston.

The shot stopper went under the knife twice in two months in March and April last year

United No 1 De Gea said:

Well, it’s always bad when someone has to retire at a young age. I’ve spoken with him, the other day, and said to him that the most important thing is life, more than football, in terms of a proper life.

It was sad. I have been training with him, when he was fit, and it’s very sad news. I wish him all the best. He’s a great lad, a great goalkeeper and we all feel really sorry for him.

I trained with him and he had a very good left foot, I remember, and it’s sad for him and for the club. But, as I said before, I was speaking with him and, first of all, it’s life and being in good conditions to have a good life.

Of course, in life, sometimes problems happen and things happen. You have to keep looking forward, keep fighting and that is what life means. Like I say, I wish him all the best.

Meanwhile, United No 2 said the news was ‘devastating’ and praised his technical abilities, and believes he is in a good place to take a step in a different direction.

But the likes of David de Gea (centre) have rallied around him following his early retirement

Henderson said:

It’s devastating for himself and for all of us around him. ‘He was a great guy to work with throughout the age groups. When I was in the younger age groups, I even remember playing against him when he was at Newcastle.

But he’s a very clever guy and that will stand him in good stead. I wasn’t aware of the news until recently due to Covid bubbles and people not seeing each other and it’s something that has been kept under wraps.

He’s a good lad who knows what he wants. He knew what he wanted when he was a player. He was such a technically gifted goalkeeper as well so it’s such a shame to lose him at such a young age. Going forward, I’m sure he’ll put his drive into something else and it will set him in good stead.

Third and fourth-choice goalkeepers Tom Heaton and Lee Grant also spoke glowingly of Woolston to the club’s website.

Speaking after his retirement, Woolston said on Man United’s official website:

To have to retire at just 23 has been really tough to come to terms with but I feel a lot more positive now.

I am really proud of everything that I have achieved, many people dream of playing football at this level. Of course, I would have loved to have gone on further but it has been an absolute honour to represent Manchester United during my time here.

The support of my family, friends, team-mates, coaches, the medical staff and entire Manchester United academy has been phenomenal. Everyone has played a major part in my journey by keeping my spirits up, allowing me to reflect positively on my playing experiences and begin to look to the future.

Right now, I am fully focused on the next stage of my career. I am ready to use all of my learnings, resilience, drive and determination to make a real success of my life.

Woolston (second from right) joined United on a free after leaving Newcastle's U23 side

He was the third-choice goalkeeper at Newcastle when they won the Championship in 2016-17

Woolston’s career began when he joined Sunderland aged 10, before he made the move to rivals Newcastle in 2015, where he was third-choice keeper during their Championship-winning season in 2016-17.

The 23-year-old also represented England up until U18s level, travelling with his country to the U17s European Championship and U17s World Cup.

He also went on loan to various clubs in the north east of the country, namely Gateshead, Darlington, Blyth Spartans and South Shields.

By Debbie

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