Alex Ferguson sanctioned Paul Scholes' Manchester United comeback amid growing concerns within Old Trafford that the first-team squad is paying the price for the loss of over 2,000 games worth of senior experience since last season.
Scholes' return, and the reasoning behind it, added credence to rumours within Manchester that David Beckham, who attended United's FA Cup win at Manchester City on Sunday, was being lined up for a six-month deal at Old Trafford now that he is a free agent following the expiry of his LA Galaxy contract.
Yet while that prospect was last night dismissed by both United and sources close to Beckham, Ferguson believes the return of Scholes, who was registered as the 23rd man in the club's Premier League squad yesterday morning, will help solve the pressing problem of inexperience within the club's ranks.
Scholes, who announced his retirement last May after clocking up 676 appearances for United, confirmed his about-turn by offering to step up from his role as reserve-team coach after admitting to Ferguson that he regretted his decision to quit playing.
Ferguson's readiness to welcome the 37-year-old back centred on a realisation, shared by the manager and his coaching staff, that the loss of four long-serving players last summer, six months after the retirement of Gary Neville, had cut too deep into the club's core of experience.
Between them, Scholes, Neville, Edwin van der Sar, John O'Shea and Wes Brown amassed 2,303 senior appearances for United.
Although injuries and loss of form prompted Ferguson to sell O'Shea and Brown to Sunderland last summer, the absence of captain Nemanja Vidic to a cruciate ligament injury and Darren Fletcher, due to ulcerative colitis, has led to alarm at United that they are short of experience in key areas.
This acceptance has led to United and Ferguson scouring the market for potential solutions.
The manager's reluctance to invest a transfer fee on a player in his 30s or agree to an expensive playing contract lasting beyond the end of this season identified Scholes as the obvious solution.
Concerns that Scholes' return to action projects a negative message about United's finances or the quality of the club's emerging talent have been dismissed within Old Trafford on the basis that the likes of Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley will benefit from the presence of Scholes alongside them at a crucial stage of the season.
Ferguson believes that Scholes will ease the burden of expectancy on the younger players, particularly in fixtures at Old Trafford, and his appearances are likely to be sporadic second-half outings from the bench.
Having missed a pre-season, Scholes' fitness levels are unlikely to enable him to perform for 90 minutes, but the key for Ferguson is experience in decisive moments. (© Daily Telegraph, London)