By Gerard Flanagan
To the surprise of many including his fellow team mates, Manchester United legend Paul Scholes returned to the field yesterday at the ripe old age of 37.
After bowing out of the game after his 15 minute appearance in the Champions League Final against Barcelona last May, Ferguson called upon the veteran to aid his injury ridden team to keep hopes of silverware alive.
What better setting to see his return than against United’s fierce rivals, Manchester City, in the most anticipated match of the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
And this Manchester derby did not fail to deliver.
Wayne Rooney opened the scoring with a fantastic header in United’s first real attack just 10 minutes in to the contest.
The game changing moment came just two minutes later when City captain, Vincent Kompany, received a controversial straight red card for a two footed challenge on Nani.
United capitalised and rounded off the half 3-0 thanks to a superb volley from Danny Welbeck and a Rooney tap in following a saved penalty.
The magic of the FA cup was really in the air for the second half as Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov curled in an unstoppable free kick two minutes in.
With around 30 minutes remaining Paul Scholes made his appearance. He was greeted with boo’s ringing around the Ethiad stadium- a definite sign in football that a rival acknowledges an oppent.
Scholes had made it quite clear that he missed playing and frequently trained with the players in the reserves that he now coaches.
Ferguson, at the end of last season felt Scholes had at least another year left and was eager to sign him for another season and his performance in the blue half of Manchester was proof that he can still kick it with the best of them.
Although, it was his mistake that led to Manchester City scoring the fifth and final goal of the game, he has been thoroughly praised for his performance. He took control of the game in typical style and completed 71 passes in 30 minutes (more than any other City player) with a success rate of 97%.
However, we must pay credit to Mancini’s men, although currently leading the EPL they were down to 10 men early and against Manchester United, that should spell the end for any team. However, City played patiently and waited for mistakes that came far too frequently for a standard United outfit and capitalised.
This patience allowed United the ball and Scholes was allowed the luxury of time, something he has a habit of creating in the toughest of environments. He played his game and helped retain possession to see out what became a nervous end for United fans.
It is silly to question his ability to still perform, he is a genius of the game admired throughout; from Pep Guardiola declaring him ‘the best midfielder of a generation’ to Zinedine Zidane revealing one of his regrets was never playing with him.
Scholes will only be used sparingly by Sir Alex Ferguson, and the impact he is able to make in the remainder of the season will simply be down to when he is called into duty. Yet there is no doubt that when he is called upon he will step up to the mark.
I, like many others, am excited he is once again gracing the EPL with his genius.
Who would have thought that come January 22 when Man Utd clash with Arsenal, we may have the opportunity to watch Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry, two of the EPL greatest players, once again battling it out on the same field.
I for one cannot wait.