We had just lost two on the bounce and were facing City away in the FA Cup.
Following our 6-1 mauling earlier in the season, many had predicted defeat for United at the Etihad Stadium; the final nail in the coffin that was United’s season.
Whilst things weren’t half as bad as the papers made out, we needed a little pick me.
It was highly unlikely we were going to splash the big money required to bring in a name that would appease some fans, but what Sir Alex did next proved that not only is he one of football’s great motivators, but that he has brilliant foresight.
Everyone remembers what they were doing when they got that shock news that Paul Scholes was back.
I was on the tube to work and in a brief spell overground I read a tweet from Nick Coppack saying he had been named on the bench. I thought it was a joke then I remember that whilst a fun and entertaining guy, it was unlikely that Nick would mess around with something as serious as this is.
Rapidly tweets of his return flooded my timeline and fans began to explode with delight.
Although Scholes played a part in City’s second goal that afternoon, since then he has failed to put a foot wrong.
The next game against Bolton, his home ‘debut’, he popped up with a goal to break the deadlock before half time and it’s been highs ever since.
There has never been any doubting Scholes’ ability but you could see he was getting run down as the season drew to an end last year. Despite this I don’t think there was a single United fan that wanted him to retire, so when he called it a day it was a massive disappointment.
But it seems like this extended break has been just what Scholes needed.
The time out not only appears to have rejuvenated Scholes, making him fresher, but also appears to ignited the fire in his belly too.
Scholes is called ‘Sat Nav’ by his United team mates due to his eye watering range of passing and whilst he will still spread you thin in an instant with a raking cross field pass, I think another suitable nickname would be ‘Metronome’.
Pick a game that he has played in since his return and you will remember that during his participation he has completely controlled the tiempo.
Against Stoke last week, he was Man of The Match as he pulled the strings dictating how the game would go. As United crashed out of the FA Cup, Liverpool only began to impress when Scholes had to go off as prior to this they were chasing his shadow and against Chelsea yesterday, it was when Scholes was introduced that United’s revival really began.
United’s midfield has been interesting this season, when we were playing the blazing gung ho football at the start of the season the criticism was that it offered no protection to the midfield. Then it stagnated and we struggled to create anything as the beautiful football ceased.
When Phil Jones stepped in to partner Carrick the play somewhat improved, but I feel that we don’t look anywhere as secure as we do with Scholes in there. I don’t feel threatened because he keeps possession so well, we can’t be hurt if we are continually on the ball and Scholes ensures this.
There isn’t a ball he can’t control either. No matter what pace the ball is played into him; head, chest or feet he will trap it and pass it off keeping us moving at speed rather than a less able player who may take more than one touch to get the ball under control, or not be able to control it at all.
Some have complained that Scholes’ return would have stunted the growth of some of our young players coming through but this clearly hasn’t been the case.
Whilst some of the players we are planning on integrating into the team in the future aren’t quite ready to be playing week in week out, who better to replace Scholes than Scholes himself? Further to this, what better education is there for players like Pogba and Cleverley than to learn their game beside one of the greatest central midfielders ever?
Pogba’s Premier League debut on Tuesday was undoubtedly made easier by having Scholes in there beside him and probably that bit more special too.
Bringing Scholes back has been an unmitigated success for me so far and we are just a month into his return. Scholes’ contribution to the team’s efforts have been telling rather than just nostalgic, he has made a real difference rather than scoring symbolic goals like the seventh in a 7-1 thrashing.
He is be using correctly by Sir Alex too and come May if we are able to lift the title, having overcome Man City, it will definitely be looked upon as one of the deciding moments in our season.