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Comeback kid Scholes will add extra spice to old pals reunion

Paul Scholes was enjoying his new status as a former Manchester United player when he addressed Arsenal's failings at the end of last season in the manner of one his tackles -- blunt, bruising and close to the bone.

"They just flatter to deceive, don't they?" Scholes said. "They may play the prettiest football, but it doesn't always produce the results they need. What is the point of that if you are not winning anything?

"If you look over those two games between Arsenal and Barcelona, it could have been any score."

Scholes is likely to be reminded of those comments when United face Arsenal at the Emirates tomorrow, with the 37-year-old, fitness permitting, lining up against Thierry Henry, Arsenal's own comeback kid.

Alex Ferguson has claimed the fixture no longer generates the "combustible atmosphere" of years past, but throwing Scholes into the mix following his retirement about-turn will ensure an extra edge to a game already high in significance for Arsenal following September's 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

A bright new era at Old Trafford, embodied by emerging talents such as Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck in that thrashing, has since been eclipsed by the fitness crisis that prompted Ferguson to call Scholes out of retirement earlier this month.

Frustrated by an inability to enjoy his new role as United's reserve-team coach, Scholes alerted Ferguson to his itchy feet having been made aware of the possibility of a return to action with Hull City, managed by his former England team-mate Nick Barmby.

Prompted by Scholes' retirement regrets, Ferguson sensed an opportunity to ease United's personnel problems and an unlikely comeback was arranged. Having returned against Manchester City, prior to a goalscoring outing against Bolton last week, Scholes will be involved at some stage against Arsenal. His experience will be needed given that Rio Ferdinand's inclusion is considered very doubtful. The defender missed training yesterday with a back injury.

Few players know how to irritate Arsenal better than Scholes. His appearance as a substitute during the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsene Wenger's team last season saw him clash with Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri before earning a booking with a late challenge.

"All of a sudden, it started to kick off," Scholes said. "But I never went on to the pitch intentionally trying to start something. It just happened." Wenger has spoken out against Scholes' "darker side", insisting he is not a "fair player" and claiming that age has not mellowed the veteran. "It's not because you are older suddenly that you are a saint," Wenger said.

However, Ferguson believes that both Scholes and Henry justify their returns to scenes of former glory -- having made fairy tale starts to their second coming.

"You're talking about one-off players," Ferguson said. "Henry, in fairness, has been playing football and is still playing for New York Red Bulls, so I don't think there's really a physical problem in him coming back.

"With Paul, I don't see any signs of stamina problems. It's just been an amazing turnaround for the lad." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent