Scholes: first, second, and third in depth chart
Paul Scholes was ruled out of Manchester United's crunch clash tomorrow at Valencia CF due to a calf complaint.
This is when things get pretty hairy.
Scholes has started every senior match this season, and he's looked bloody great. But his forced preclusion from the side on Wednesday will expose United's lack of natural cover in the central attacking midfielder role.
Let's run down the brief list of candidates: Anderson is a poor passer and only just recovering from injury, on top of being more natural to a holding role. Fletcher and Hargreaves are both holding midfielders, albeit good ones, decent passers, but not incisive or creative. Carrick's effect can best be described by awkward silence. Gibson can crack from range, but otherwise is a poor man's Fletcher. Giggs is crocked and obviously makeshift at best in the role. Who else is there?
If Rooney wasn't injured, he'd be the most natural replacement to Scholes in midfield. In fact, it's where he should probably play, period, especially as Javier Hernandez proves to be the better striker. But that's way out of anyone's paradigm.
Tomorrow is going to be a low-scoring affair. Take the under, sure, but hope that Scholes gets back sooner than later. Otherwise, it's going to not only be an aesthetically ugly season, replete with boring hoofs and hopeful crosses, but it'll be one filled with increasingly mediocre results.
Scholes is one of a few players United can't afford to lose this season; a strange circumstance for a 35-year-old player, a damning indictment of United's transfer and youth policy.