It took a Paul Scholes header to get us past Besiktas the other day, in what was otherwise, a mind-numbingly stodgy match. Passes went astray, Rooney left isolated — frustrated, even — wingers failing to provide a cutting edge consistently; all in all, a classic away European performance from the runners-up.
United’s performances, despite their superior results in comparison to the last two seasons, have been schizophrenic, for want of a better word. But a relative constant, in all of Ferguson’s methodical(?) madness of rotation, has been Paul Scholes.
Scholes has actually been surprisingly good for all talk of his advancing years. However, ‘goodness’ is relative; I have lowered expectations from our old guard, and Scholes has performed above the bar I’ve set for him. [Had he been 29, I’d have different expectations of him.]
As I recovered from narcolepsy a good many hours following our win against Besiktas, I read Ferguson’s comments on his plans for Paul Scholes: “I don’t think this is Paul’s last season,” said Fergie. “What else has he got? He’s a football man.”
Scholsey would argue he’s a committed family man and he’d settle down nicely in a heartbeat if given the chance, but that is besides the point. [I love Scholes precisely for this reason; he’s a throwback to a different era as a model professional.] Ferguson goes on to add, “He’ll miss more than he plays, but if I can get 25 games out of him at the level we saw against Spurs and Besiktas, we’ll be delighted with that. I don’t think this will be his last season, not the way he plays. He’s not the type that bursts into the penalty box these days, is he?”
For the sake of argument, 25 games at the level we saw against Spurs is acceptable, but at the level we saw at Besiktas is not. The obvious question would be to ask if he really should carry on in a United shirt.
But a more pertinent question, subtly different, gets lost in the process, which is, why should United be in a situation where they have to rely on a 34 year old midfielder or another 35 year old (Ryan Giggs) to make up the numbers?
Loyalty is a beautiful thing, especially when it’s a two-way street; we’ve all witnessed that with Ferguson’s soft corner for Giggs, Neville and Scholes. But it appears the players don’t seem to have a feel for calling it quits when they are obviously past it. [I’ll make an exception on Ryan Giggs.] Neither does Ferguson realise it.
There is far too much respect for Scholes and Neville from both manager and fans alike — and deservedly so — that even if someone stood up, gathering all the respect they could muster, and tell Scholes and Neville to call it a day, that person would only face abuse.
Ferguson is known for making tough decisions. But on his favourite men from the golden generation, he’s dithered. Ferguson may think Scholes is good for another season, but I hope he’s just saying this publicly in a manner of traditional ‘manager-speak’.
Scholes and Neville are United legends without doubt, which is why I’d rather keep those good times in my mind than watch them over-extend themselves in their twilight years. Trust me — especially in the case of Neville — it’s not always a pleasant sight.
Note: In case you want tickets to the Man City game, don’t forget to take part in our competition in association with Betfair. Details here. Tonight (Thursday midnight GMT) is the latest you can enroll.
- Sir Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc meet Manchester United executives at Old Trafford as Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% acquisition edges closer
- Man Utd showing interest in Borussia Dortmund winger Donyell Malen
- Man Utd confirm Amad Diallo has returned to full training ahead of Bournemouth game
- United boss Erik ten Hag shuts the door on January reinforcement
- Ian Wright wants Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag gone once Sir Jim Ratcliffe arrives
- Roy Keane wants Manchester United to ditch Antony, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and more
- Bruno Fernandes sends message to Manchester United fans after 2-1 win against Chelsea
- Erik ten Hag has another undroppable star in Scott McTominay after Chelsea win
- Sofyan Amrabat produces his best Man Utd display vs Chelsea
- Juventus cool interest in exiled Man Utd star Jadon Sancho due to financial concerns