Friday 15 December 2017

Covert Scholes return reveals more about United's flaws

Mark Ogden

So keen was Alex Ferguson for Paul Scholes' retirement U-turn to be kept under wraps until the team-sheets were handed in prior to Manchester United's FA Cup clash with Manchester City, the secret was not even divulged to his players. "We didn't know about Scholesy until he started getting changed and we saw the 'Scholes 22' shirt," confessed Wayne Rooney following the veteran's reappearance in a United shirt.

At 37, the man who claimed last May that he had readied himself for retirement during the final six months of last season, citing the frustrations at being betrayed by ageing legs, has become the George Foreman of Manchester United.

His time was supposed to be up, but Scholes has been unable to resist another challenge, one last shot at the biggest stage.

Like former heavyweight boxing champion Foreman, however, Scholes' return is that of a man who cannot do without the intoxication that comes with competing at the highest level.

He informed Ferguson two weeks ago that he wanted to return and United quietly registered Scholes with the English Football Association on Friday morning, ensuring he would be eligible to face City in the third round.

"The last few weeks, Paul has been training very hard with the reserves and doing a lot of work in the gym," Ferguson said.

"He came to see me and said 'I regret retiring.' There are no negatives for me. It is a terrific addition to our squad at a very important part of our season."

His presence lifted United's young players and their fans, but is his return a short-term fix which obscures a long-term problem?

Are United's emerging players really capable of challenging if the situation demanded Scholes' return? And can he compete for a genuine replacement for Scholes in the transfer market?

Big questions, but questions which may have been answered by Scholes' return. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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