Paul Scholes’ return: It’s good to act desperately, sometimes
It appeared to us an act of desperation – the very last resort, Plan B (or, more appropriately, Plan Z), or any well-worn cliché – and it, well, was. For Manchester United, bringing back Paul Scholes seemed a step back. Truth is, it’s gone better than we’d envisaged back then, ever since it was revealed ahead of the FA Cup 3rd round tie against Manchester City back in January. Of course, it’d be foolish to go all hyperbolic on Scholes’ impact on return (too late?) as he’s only played a small amount of games so far; not forgetting that we still have another three months to endure of this rather unsightly season. Remember, it is still very possible that things can go awry towards the climax if age were to indeed catch up with him – again; much like his final, but not-actually-final season, then.
But, for a team supposedly lacking depth in central midfield – they are – and a team lacking an individual who can dictate play – they are – his reintroduction was fairly understandable. United certainly needed it. Sure, they could have actually signed someone, but that would go against the latest popular trend of not spending any money at all. And it’s good to be cool and in line with the trends, kids.
It should be noted that, last season, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted Scholes to stay on for another year, obviously confident in his ability. And he’s shown exactly why Ferguson felt that way; since his Second Coming, he has brought both control and calm to a team not exactly lacking it in particular, but instead lacking a real identity where other factors naturally come along with it. Where they started the season with a dynamic duo aiming for fluidity with Anderson and Tom Cleverley, United have now opted for possession football and it suits – unsurprisingly – Scholes and his renascent midfield partner Michael Carrick well; the latter, it must be said, enjoying a fine spell in the team which has seen him not miss a minute of League football since some time in November. In between these two partnerships, there has been a degree of uncertainty in both selection and style where, not that they played badly – that’s far from the point, they have constantly tinkered and trialled, looking for the perfect fit. It nearly happened with Phil Jones and Carrick, before the former picked up an injury.
Scholes’ few performances have come as a surprise to many. He looked rusty in his first game back against City but, since then, has expressed himself in a confident manner; looking every inch as composed and collected as he was in late 2010, where it is thought he had his very last purple patch in the Manchester United side before being reduced to cameo bench roles thereafter. So, considering last season’s dip in form, was it a regressive move? “How can it be regressive?” a bemused Sir Alex said last month when asked about the move. “He’s not going to play every game but in terms of composure and passing ability, is there a better player going around? Definitely not.” And the Scot is right – yet, as he pointed out, he won’t be able to play every game like a Michael Carrick would or an, er … (there are no other fit central midfielders are there?!). Which is a shame. Because while it’s clear he’s not as good as he once was, he possesses some things that others don’t.
Having not started the previous week against Chelsea in that fascinating 3-3 draw, he’s in the reckoning for a start on Saturday, against Liverpool at Old Trafford. When these two met a fortnight ago, United were far the better team – but lost. Which is why Wayne Rooney, absent in that one, will be pivotal here. Then they had Ryan Giggs behind the striker, but Rooney is arguably more comfortable in the position he’s given, whereas Giggs – creative as he is – tends to get lost in the crowd. Rooney acts almost as an attacking midfielder and links play well, and United – though some don’t know it – have relied heavily on his movement in recent years. With Scholes and Carrick for company, it’s the perfect trio which allows United to play with a distinguishable style.
And so as desperate as it looked, Scholes’ return hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing for the club. Heck, it’s gone pretty smoothly so far. And it’s bound to continue. If he keeps this up, then it’ll be difficult to be averse to another year of Paul Scholes. And, let’s be honest here, we won’t mind that one bit.