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Scholes returns, hopes rise & a summer of discontent begins. 2011-2012 Season Review Part 2

If 2011 had seen a disappointing end, 2012 didn’t get off to the best of starts either for Manchester United, as they suffered a second consecutive league defeat falling 3-0 at St.James’ Park against Alan Pardew’s high-flying Newcastle.

Four days later, United faced the mother of all third round tie in the FA Cup, away at holders Manchester City, presenting them with the perfect chance to make amend for the humiliation suffered back in October.

Just before kick off, news filtered that United legend Paul Scholes had come out of retirement following pleas from Sir Alex Ferguson.

The former United number 18 sat on the bench and watched as United raced to a 3-0 lead before halftime courtesy of two goals from Wayne Rooney and one from Danny Welbeck that left 10-man City shell shocked.

Scholes entered the pitch in the second half to a rousing reception by the United fans but he could do nothing to prevent what almost proved to be a famous comeback as City pulled two goals back through Kolarov and Aguero, but in the end couldn’t force a replay.

Paul Scholes’ return – ailed as a desperate move by Patrick Vieira a few months later – was the tonic United needed and the midfield maestro was on the scoresheet in his first game at Old Trafford after his return, as United swept Bolton aside 3-0.

With City beating Spurs with a last minute penalty, United traveled to the Emirates knowing that only a win would be enough to keep pace with the league leaders and goals from Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck secured a league double against the Gunners, before United crashed out the FA Cup a week later, following a late goal by Dirk Kuyt which saw United leave Anfield empty handed on the back of yet more controversy caused by the ongoing case of racial abuse between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra which had seen the Uruguayan striker banned for eight games.

United resumed Premier League duties by beating Stoke 2-0 at home before they traveled to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea.


With the Blues up 3-0 with 30 minutes left United looked dead and buried but two penalties from Wayne Rooney and a late Javier Hernandez header – as well as a fantastic last minute save by David DeGea, by then quickly turning from liability into a cornerstone of United backline – earned United a valuable point which put them two points adrift of City.

With Suarez coming back from his suspension, Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford was always destined to be a tasty affair and it did not disappoint.

The Uruguayan incredibly refused to shake Evra’s hand before kick-off before being subject to an extremely hostile reception for the crowd.

Wayne Rooney’s quick-fire brace early in the second half secured three points for United despite Suarez’s late goal for the visitors.

With the international break looming large, it was time for United to concentrate on the Europa League and come to terms with the shock of being no longer part of Europe’s elite competition.

Young and Hernandez were on the score-sheet as United won 2-0 in Amsterdam before losing 2-1 at home the following week after a very poor performance.

The league obviously remained the number one priority and goals from Scholes and Giggs saw United claim a hard-fought victory at Carrow Road against a spirited Norwich side.

Following an early goal from Scholes, United were pegged back seven minutes from time by a brilliant finish from Grant Holt before Ryan Giggs came to the rescue once more to score in the 93rd minute.


A week later, another tough challenge awaited United as the Reds traveled to White Hart Lane determined to secure maximum points against a Spurs side that Redknapp considered to be the only alternative to the two Manchester clubs in the race for the title.

Following a first half spent largely in their own half, United found themselves ahead at the break thanks to a brilliant header from Wayne Rooney.

Two superb finishes from Ashley Young put United 3-0 up in the second half, before Jermaine Defoe’s late consolation goal for Spurs.

Two defeats against Athletic Bilbao saw United exit Europe for the second time this season, but United could at least console themselves with the thought of being top of the league for the first time in months as they beat WBA 2-0 with City losing 1-0 away at Swansea.

With City not playing until Wednesday, United momentarily extended their lead thanks to a rampant 5-0 away against Wolves, with Jonny Evans grabbing his first goal for the club and Valencia, Welbeck and Hernandez (twice) completing the rout.

City quickly cut the gap back to a single point following a late 2-1 win against Chelsea, but United were three points clear by the end of the month as City stumbled to a 1-1 draw at Stoke, before United beat Fulham 1-0 at Old Trafford.


Following City’s 3-3 draw at home against Sunderland, United started April on the front foot, late goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young secured a 2-0 win at Blackburn in front of more than 7000 traveling fans, in what was probably the most emotional moment of the season for United supporters.

A week later, on Easter Sunday, United – helped by an early penalty – saw off QPR before a late Mikel Arteta’s stike gave Arsenal a 1-0 win against City and United an eight-point gap at the top of the table.

Uncharacteristically, the Reds began to stutter, losing 1-0 at Wigan four days later before momentarily steadying the ship by trouncing Villa 4-0 at Old Trafford.

A week later United saw themselves 1-0 down against Everton, before goals from Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Nani gave United a 3-1 lead early in the second half.

Another Rooney goal put his team 4-2 in front with barely more than 10 minutes to play before United somehow managed in the suicidal task of letting Everton back on level terms within 120 seconds.

With City beating Wolves 2-0, the stage was set for the clash at the Etihad to be the title decider, as City only needed a win to regain the lead thanks to their superior goal difference.

A subdued United lost 1-0 to a Vincent Kompany’s header and hopes of a comeback were dashed six days later as City overcame Newcastle’s resistance, running away with a 2-0 win on Tyneside as United beat Swansea with the same scoreline in their last home game of the season.

With City seemingly poised to sweep QPR aside, even the ever-optimists among United fans had failed to find a reasonable glimmer of hope to which they could hang on ahead of the last game of the season.

Ironically, the slim thread to which they clung on for the last 90 minutes of the season grew stronger and stronger following QPR’s goals in the second half before it eventually gave way 20 seconds from the end to condemn United – who had beaten Sunderland 1-0 thanks to Wayne Rooney’s 27th league goal of the season – and their fans to cruelest of endings.

Daniele (@MUFC_dan87)