'Dinosaur' Scholes gives United old edge in experience
Manchester United 3-0 Bolton
Monday 16 January 2012
The talk was all of Paul Scholes but perhaps more significant for the longer term was a banner with a picture of Manchester United's other late thirty-something, Ryan Giggs, emblazoned upon it. "He's won it 12 times," ran the slogan: "Twelve more than Gerrard."
And 12 more than most members of the two sides with whom United are wrestling for the title.
Tottenham have a couple of players who know what it takes to win the Premier League and Manchester City have four – but since three of them are Wayne Bridge, Owen Hargreaves and Carlos Tevez, only Kolo Touré really counts. His brother, Yaya, may have won La Liga with Barcelona but there is a subtle difference, the same that lies between the Open and the Masters.
It is this vast reservoir of experience upon which Manchester United will draw in the coming months. It is the one, and perhaps only, clear advantage they possess.
Scholes may not score in another game – and he was not prolific before retiring for the first time – but his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, argued that his mere presence was a source of reassurance to a team that seemed to be limping into the new year.
"He does not make a lot of noise but you can feel his presence," said Anders Lindegaard, the United goalkeeper, whose only major trophy so far has been the Norwegian FA Cup three years ago.
"The way he does things is something to live up to – that is how you are supposed to be. That experience gives you something to look at. I have never been in a lot of the situations we are in now.
"People forget how inexperienced I am in this game. When times are tough or if they are good, you look at Scholesy and see how he handles it."
The first half against Manchester City in the FA Cup and this brusque dismissal of Bolton suggests that the old adage that Manchester United grow in power as the season wears on still holds true. However, it may require them to be knocked out of the Europa League at the earliest available opportunity to avoid the draining routine of Thursday-Sunday football.
This hopelessly unequal Lancashire derby kicked off at three o'clock on a Saturday and the only question was whether a heroic performance from Adam Bogdan would earn Bolton a point. The answer by 3.45pm was no. Bogdan may have saved a penalty from Wayne Rooney but Bolton's goalkeeper said he always felt that if Manchester United kept creating chances they would, inevitably, break through and so it proved.
Patrice Evra may have commented that it was nice to see "a dinosaur score" but the decisive contribution came not from Gingersaurus but from Antonio Valencia who, Evra remarked, will have left Bolton's left-back, Sam Ricketts, in need of muscle treatment after the final whistle.
"We still have some injuries," Evra said. "But I think when everyone is back fit, it will give us the strength to win the title.
"People like to talk a lot about Manchester City but we just need to be focused on what we do and how we play and I think we are going to win the league.
"This was an important game after the FA Cup win against City to show we are really confident and that we are back."
Nevertheless, beating Bolton is one thing, overcoming Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday, when the presence of Scholes and Thierry Henry will make it seem like a scene from Field of Dreams, is quite another.
Booking: Bolton, Knight
Man of the match: Valencia
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire)
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