Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand is delighted that two of his favourite Premier League players are treading the boards on the biggest stage once more.
After the striker Thierry Henry made his mark on a second debut for Arsenal last week, he was followed on to the goalscoring chart by Paul Scholes when the midfielder, just returned from retirement, set United on their way to victory over Bolton on Saturday.
Next Sunday, the pair will go head to head at the Emirates, as United travel to Arsenal. The build-up is bound to include memories of great deeds from Henry and Scholes, and Ferdinand concedes there are plenty.
"It is great to see two of the best players come back," the defender said. "If I was going to name a top-five list of players to have played in the Premier League, Scholes and Henry would be in there. It's fantastic for Arsenal, just as it is for us to have Scholes back. Hopefully, he's going to help us get over the line and win another couple of trophies."
The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, reintroduced Scholes to his squad for the FA Cup tie against Manchester City earlier this month without informing any of his playing staff. Ferdinand did try to unearth the information, but, typically, Scholes was not forthcoming with any details.
"I spoke to Scholesy a few weeks beforehand and asked him if he was coming back but he doesn't give anything away," Ferdinand said. "When he met up with the squad the day before the City game, I asked him again if he was in the squad but he said he was coming to watch as part of the staff. I had an inkling he might be back, though, because he trained the day before with us but it wasn't until the kit man told me before the game that he had brought his gear that I knew for certain."
Scholes' return has been greeted with mixed feelings, with some arguing it is a regressive step for a club trying to win a record 20th title. The 37-year-old's two performances so far have been patchy, although he retains a calmness in possession that Ferdinand does not feel many could exude after six months out of the game.
"There are only a handful of players on the planet who could do it," Ferdinand said. "Iniesta, Xavi, Messi. They are the type of players who can come in at any time and look as though they could just play football at the drop of a hat at the top level, the game is so natural to them."
And having spent so long as a team-mate, Ferdinand is acutely aware of the benefits Scholes will bring to the younger members of Ferguson's squad. "For the young players learning their trade, especially our midfielders – they can see a top player at work," Ferdinand said. "His experience is invaluable, as well as his calmness on the pitch and his know-how of the game. When you've got wingers like ours and forwards who want to get in behind the defenders and attack teams, a player like him who can put the ball on a sixpence is great."
Ferdinand is confident of being fit for the Arsenal game, and yesterday wrote on his Twitter page: "Just dispelling the rumours that I'm a doubt for sunday! Trained with the team as normal since the game saturday! Coaches ran us hard 2day!"
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