Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, our new Holy Trinity if you like, have come under some criticism in recent weeks. It’s the way it usually goes. Things aren’t going well, so who can we blame? Dimitar Berbatov will be glad that these three ‘old men’ are in the team so they can share the flack.
Following the Blackburn draw I couldn’t believe it when Sir Alex Ferguson said we had plenty of options in midfield. My heart sunk when I saw Giggs and Scholes pairing up in the centre of the park. Not because I think they’re past it and have nothing new to offer us (with Scholes’ worth already being mentioned earlier last week after he signed a contract extension) but because Fergie isn’t doing them, or us, any favours playing them like that.
Scholes can probably still pass the ball better than anyone else in our team, so stick him next to a worker like Darren Fletcher who will do all the mopping up to give Scholes the creative freedom from deep.
Equally, only four players in the league have assisted more goals than Giggsy this season, which is pretty incredible when you consider he’s only started 22 games and missed a fair chunk of the season after breaking his arm. So put him out wide with Patrice Evra, who can do more of the sprinting as the game goes on, and leave Giggs in the right positions to put a ball in.
Still, I have to confess I was disappointed to see Giggs starting against City when I thought Nani would be a much better option. Whilst happier to see they both weren’t starting in the centre, I still thought Nani’s pace would cause more problems for City, but we know the manager likes to put our own lads in for derby games. Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson all came through the ranks at United and made the starting team, with John O’Shea on the bench. Who did the only team in Manchester have to boast about?
In the starting line-up, only Nigerian born, Mancunian bred, Nedum Onuoha, who joined the club when he was 17-years-old. On the bench they had Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips, but he is a product of Nottingham Forest’s academy, playing for them from 12-17.
Whilst Roberto Mancini made some odd substitutions (probably from the dehydration of posing in his tacky scarf for 90 minutes whilst the rest of Manchester was sunbathing), Ferguson opted to keep all but one of our former youth team lads on the park for the full match.
So, when you’re 92 minutes and 40 seconds in to a gruelling Manchester derby, playing in the hottest conditions of the year so far, you expect your fittest players to be making that run in to the box. You’re not expecting to see the 35-year-old midfielder, who has been working his socks off all game anyway, to get himself completely unmarked and ready to execute a header with perfection, totally alluding one of the better keepers in the league.
But that’s exactly what happened.
You couldn’t write Manchester United’s script, so fantastic has our story been, and moments like Saturday afternoon add to it, with our Salford lad popping up to put us right back in the race and get us our third win of the season over our local rivals.
It’s all rather interesting because after United crept within one point of Chelsea, the blues would have fancied themselves to increase the gap again later that afternoon. They talk the talk well enough, so you assumed they would go out there and walk the walk, particularly with their very own John ‘Captain, Leader, Legend‘ Terry. Forget the fact he almost broke his England team mate’s leg a fortnight ago, forget that he should have given away a penalty a week ago, this was the weekend that Chelsea really needed their CLL. So, what happened?
First, Terry handled the ball in the box. When the referee pointed to the penalty spot, he told him to fuck off. Then, with Chelsea 2-0 down, their CLL slides in late on Bale to rightly earn himself a second yellow card and early bath.
“Sometimes you are not always rational, you sometimes lose your control,” said Ancelotti. “Maybe sometimes he had some problems and didn’t play so well, maybe against Spurs he didn’t play too well.”
Last weekend could have been what decides the title, or it might mean nothing at all in the end, but real leaders and legends stand up to be counted. John Terry is Chelsea’s only home grown player, in contrast to the six we had starting for us at the weekend, and it’s horrible to think that he could have been one of ours had he not turned us down in preference for the rentboys all those years ago. But who would you prefer? Meek and mild Scholes, who is there when you need him but would blush at the praise, or arrogant and cocky Terry, who makes a habit of fucking up when his team need him theand happy to see everything revolve around him?
Forget I asked. The answer is obvious.
Scholesy, our legend, in every sense of the word, we salute you!