Paul Scholes' little legs may have life in them yet.
Often on the periphery this season and last, his appearances had been patchy both in quantity and quality. Ryan Giggs since emerged as the focal "elder knight" for the club as Scholes' fitness and career trickled down in a more direct, less romantic fashion.
However, the gingerman's unique ability and individual passing style are tailored to make an even greater impact—on the pitch—than the Welshman this season, at least in the center of the pitch where either are likely to reside, and where United need it most.
Scholes' role remembered
Many assume Scholes' displayed tendency to sit back and quarterback the team result as much from his aging legs as an intention of his manager's tactics. Presumably the savvy Sir Alex Ferguson is aware of the creative limitation this creates, but, nonetheless, employs it purposefully.
Bemusing tactical decisions aside, Scholesy has nonetheless been in good touch over the last fortnight (the minimum time elapsed required to declare someone "in form," ye over-zealous plaudits), apparently benefiting from the extended twenty-day break granted after his putrid display against Fulham in mid-December.
Since then, most namely in United's last three matches, Scholes has been on song.
As so, his long-range passes more often zero onto their marks. His crafty wiggles and turns in midfield evade younger midfielders instead of resulting in almost sad turnovers. He finds his forwards through the middle with greater frequency and predicates most of United's movements.
But besides being simply—and finally—rested and sharper, away to Hull City on Jan. 23, Scholes' early 32-yard belcher—the longest strike he's attempted in years' time—led to Rooney rebounding for United's first goal. Flood gates -> Open.
Does the audacity required to uncork from distance result from confidence or coincidence? Who knows. But good things happen when Scholes shoots from range—noteworthily an attribute devoid from Giggs' repertoire.
Against Man City a few days later, the number eighteen started again, balancing power and accuracy to score the tantamountly important first goal from the edge of the box, in addition to assuming the creative mantle in a five-man midfield. United don't lose when they score first, and they look best when they score early.
In United's next game against Arsenal last weekend, in a rare paradigm shift, Ferguson mercifully deregulated Scholes, granting the minute midfielder license to get forward while both Fletcher and Carrick marshaled the middle, further contributing to arguably United's best spell of football this season.
Andy Gray remarked during United's comprehensive, whack-a-mole destruction of the Gunners that Scholes stated he still wants to play all the time and doesn't like being rotated. After starting three club matches on the trot for the first time since the start of last season, it seems he was right.
Who knows. Maybe Scholes needs more consistent playing time—not less—to stay in good touch. But even if he falls out of it, an average Scholes applied correctly—at the tip of the spear, instead of the handle—piques the current squad's potential.
In 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formations, his manager is granted less benefit of doubt in using him correctly.
Such a formation generally precludes Berbatov, who is unlikely to surpass Rooney on any United team sheet—ever, which is not necessarily his fault (see: group-think ). As a result, United's attacks invariably suffer in the build-up, thereby magnifying the significance of the Scholes role.
But more so, the presence of two other central midfielders in such a line-up—each better defensively, but worse offensively, than Scholes, as the case is—equates to nil reason why the ginger man shouldn't feature in front of them then.
Hopefully Sir Alex is beginning to see that Paul still has the life in him yet to get forward and do the cheeky things he built his reputation on.
Visions of Scholes' skidding into the box, dinking through balls, driving from distance, and tick-tocking an attractive United side are not necessarily lost to lore.
But his synergy of confidence and fitness is somewhat wasted if he is not allowed to attack—unsupressed by tactics, if not the attrition of age—from January into the new month and beyond.