This is the best Manchester United have to offer in terms of midfielders – Paul Scholes, almost 38, now with 700 appearances in his career, all for the Red Devils. Yesterday, against a Wigan side that hanged in there pretty well for just over an hour, it was pulled his teammates into a more aggressive match and their first impressive (4-0) win of the season.
It was about the old and the veterans yesterday at Old Trafford. Scholes with his 700th, Ryan Giggs reaching 600 Premier League appearances, more than any other player and Rio Ferdinand making his 400th appearance for Manchester United. Of course, we can talk all we like about midfield quality, but the return of Ferdinand to Vidic’s side has both made the Serbian defender look much better, gave Michael Carrick his old, favorite position back and stabilized the midfield. For the first time this season, Manchester United didn’t concede.
And it was a Paul Scholes goal that led the way, scoring off a rebound of sorts early in the second half, as United were growing frustrated by the visitors. That led to a hectic period of 13 minutes with hard tackles and a bit too much aggression from both sides, but Scholes is the player you want to have in your midfield in those moments. Never hiding away from a challenge or from a tackle, with his teammates catching up quickly with the pace and attitude.
Nani had his first good showing of the season. The club and Ferguson may be angry with him for all the contract negotiations, but there’s still too much talent in those feet to ignore. He got the start on the right wing instead of Valencia and made the most of it, creating chance after chance against a defense that couldn’t handle the width and speed.
Giggs? Quiet, nothing more. I’m pretty sure he’ll have his moments during the season of one brilliant touch or pass that’ll save United, like he always conjures up at some point during the season, but it’s obvious his time is coming. Scholes, when given the right kind of rest, is energetic and influential. Ryan Giggs was none of those things in the victory, but there was enough going on around him to help him hide his lack of effectiveness.
This isn’t the team you’ll see from United when they dress up for their Champions League opener. Alex Ferguson isn’t having anything resembling his failure from last year, not making out of the group stage, happen again. No home draws with Benfica or Basel this time, or at least nothing planned. Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia got to rest, while Robin van Persie went on to produce one of the misses of the season. Patrice Evra? Officially injured on the bench, he watched Alex Buttner have a successful debut with a stubborn goal. Yes, he should be worried.
No great football from United, despite the 4-0 win, despite scoring 10 goals in their last three matches. But their on a roll, even if it’s against teams ranked 8th or less (Southampton are last with no points), and consistency that comes along with the points at the end of the day are better for Ferguson than style that falls apart against strong opposition. His experiment at being Barcelona from last year is still on hold.