Robin Van Persie’s hat trick to seal a come from behind win against Southampton was the perfect way to mark 1000 league games for Sir Alex Ferguson.
We’ve seen it so many times previously, United looking dead and buried but rising up to rescue themselves from a perilous position and it is a testament to the mentality Sir Alex Ferguson has instilled in the team, to keep going to the final whistle and regardless of the situation give it your all.
The decision to bring Robin Van Persie to Old Trafford looks a masterstroke from Sir Alex, and the fact he chose to pay how much he did for a 29 year old in the final year of their contract seem a moot point now.
Robin Van Persie was rightfully showered with praise following his hat trick yesterday; after missing his penalty he showed an urgency in his play to rectify the mistake he made and it paid off. Many comparisons have been made between him and our last prolific Dutch striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and if he reaches anywhere near that level United fans will be pleased, but yesterday’s victory wasn’t all down to him.
Post match Van Persie was quick to deflect the attention from himself to a player that he felt changed the momentum of the game, and it won’t have been the first time a team mate has hailed his influence, that player being Paul Scholes. Introduced on the hour mark, Scholes stepped onto the pitch and set about doing what he does best, taking control of the game and taming it.
A match that was getting away from the team was shackled by Scholes as he controlled the tiempo and almost instantly he carved out a chance for Van Persie, which the Dutch striker fired at Davis. It is such a cliched phrase to use when talking of Scholes, but he really did pull the strings as United’s fought back from 2-1 down.
Sir Alex Ferguson spoke post game, claiming the United only really started playing football after Scholes came on and it wouldn’t be the first time. I implore you to cast your mind back to Chelsea away last season, a game where Scholes came on and again turned the game in United’s favour, as we grabbed two goals to ensure a point from a game we looked destined to lose.
That is the advantage of a player like Scholes, he makes the game flow at his command and ultimately it is his influence that says how it will go, he dictates play and there is usually very little the opposition can do about it. It isn’t an easy thing to do, and players who can do it as well as him are few and far in between with the likes of Xavi and Pirlo being the most obvious ones that spring to mind.
Scholes being on and off the pitch makes a world of difference to United, you just have to look at the team last season prior to his return. We didn’t seem as cohesive and further evidence of this came at the DW Stadium in April. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face but losing to Wigan had as bad if not worse effect on our title chances as the draw against Everton, and it is no coincidence that Scholes was rested for that game.
Our midfield were passengers in that game as Wigan rushed us and took all 3 points, and whilst I don’t want to overstate his importance and influence I don’t think there will be many people that disagree he would have been able to control that game too.
Having Scholes doesn’t always work, he isn’t some imperious demi-god but when he works, and that is more often than not, it is remarkable.
Yesterday I saw people saying the team we started with was our strongest team but there were two things missing. Firstly no matter how ‘inconsistant’ he can be Nani always makes us a much more dangerous team to face and even at this age, a United team sans Scholes isn’t at it’s strongest.
So with this being Scholes’ last season is it fair to say we should be extremely worried?
The first thing that springs to mind when looking at this whole situation is that we shouldn’t still have to rely on a 38 year old. It is often said that you don’t replace a player like Paul Scholes, instead you try to adapt to his absence and whilst we have been trying to adapt to life without him, it is fair to say these attempts have not been a roaring success.
Anderson was brought in and whilst some initially saw him as Scholes’ successor he has so far failed to live up to the billing. Cleverley appeared to be our saviour last summer and whilst he is a good player now and will get even better, he isn’t quite Scholes. He doesn’t have the same passing range nor does he have the ability to influence and control a game like Scholes does, instead (lazily) he is what I’d call a ‘tidy’ player, some one that keeps the game ticking over. Sir Alex has stated Nick Powell will be used as a central midfielder and whilst we can’t tell how he will develop, it is likely that it will be a long time before he is at the level required to be starting in the middle for United.
Currently we are in the process of changing the way we play, it was seen with the departure of Dimitar Berbatov as Sir Alex felt he didn’t fit the new system. With us favouring speed and incise passing there will always be a place for a player of Paul Scholes’ ability in the team but when he goes I just can’t see where the qualities he brings to the table will come from.
A lot can happen in a season and who knows how the team will develop and who may come out of the woodwork but currently the prospect of losing Scholes is a daunting one.
Any team would be worse off losing a player of his quality but having had a brief glimpse of life without him, you would just hope that we will be better prepared for it when he finally decides to call it quits permanently.