The return of Paul Scholes has already been stated by many as the reason why Manchester United will retain their Barclays Premier League title.
Scholes made his surprise return to the Old Trafford side before the FA Cup third round derby with Manchester City just over a week ago.
The former England international then started Saturday’s victory over Bolton Wanderers, scoring the opening goal in the process.
It was another sensational return to action for a veteran that had apparently played his last game in England, after Thierry Henry’s match-winning return to Arsenal a week ago.
As Henry found in the loss to Swansea City yesterday, returns can be far less magical than the fairy-tale return against Leeds United.
Scholes appeared in the victory over City, but Roberto Mancini’s side came out with arguably greater credibility from that game.
Despite opening the scoring, victory over Bolton Wanderers was not a vintage display from the 37-year-old, interspersed with misplaced passes and two or three questionable challenges that may have resulted in yellow cards.
The Red Devils legend was eventually replaced by another golden oldie, Ryan Giggs – an example of how to keep yourself relevant and your level high when you begin to near the latter stage of your career.
Scholes, obviously, kept the ball reasonably enough, but there was a lack of precision in his forward passes and his range wasn’t quite right for most of the afternoon.
In much the same way that Henry’s bit of quality against Leeds covered up what was largely a poor all-round performance, Scholes’ goal has led many to ignore the fact the Old Trafford great was looking a bit, well, old.
Henry’s almost anonymous return against Swansea City proved quite how much his level has dropped since he left the Gunners and ruined his remarkable record of having scored against every Barclays Premier League club he has faced.
It is disappointing that he should lose such a milestone when he has come back clearly a much less effective player, though there has thankfully been nobody unwise enough to suggest he has sullied his legacy in losing that record.
In some ways, Scholes situation is far more difficult than Henry’s, in that he has said that he thinks he still has what it takes to deliver at the highest level and that he had made a mistake in retiring.
Henry, on the other hand, has only come in to help out with Africa Cup of Nations absences and will leave again in a few weeks. The New York Red Bulls striker has also continually stated he does not expect to play too great a role and is only interested in assisting.
Whereas Scholes has come back in as a key figure once more and expectations will be placed on him that all other squad members under Sir Alex Ferguson will get.
It could be a painful mistake for those predicting more glory for United now their ginger wonder has returned, but reality says six months out of the game for a 37-year-old is hard to return from.
However it turns out, you must have a heart of stone not to smile when the diminutive playmaker popped up on the end of Wayne Rooney’s centre on the stroke of half time.
While nobody wants to see two of the league's greatest ever players fail in their attempts to get back some of the old magic, it looks like one come-back too far.
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