I like to think that it’s not often that this blog moans or grumbles but two stories circling in the media today are worthy of a rare controlled outburst! The topics are the UEFA Champions League and Paul Scholes…
Champions League reinstatement
The BBC’s homepage has the headline: “Man Utd given European lifeline”. The story has been published across most media outlets and can be read here.
In short, United may get an opportunity to play in the Champions League knock-out stages after all. FC Sion fielded ineligible players in the Europa League earlier this season and were thrown out the competition. If the Swiss FA take no action by the 13th January then Swiss football may be punished with their clubs thrown out of European competitions. This would see Basel removed from the Champions League and it’s been suggested that United could come back in to face Bayern Munich.
Sounds like a horrible idea to me. For starters, I think if Basel are thrown out then Bayern should just be given a bye to the quarter finals rather than United brought back in – what does that mean for Ajax and that clearly shows one competition favoured over another by UEFA.
More importantly, it would be incredibly embarrassing for United. We weren’t good enough in the group stages and were fairly knocked out of the competition. We don’t deserve to be there. Many fans have already booked flights and hotels for Amsterdam too; many would I imagine be non-refundable. Hopefully Basel will be allowed to play, they came second in our group and shouldn’t be punished as a result of another team’s errors. One can only hope that United would turn down a return to the CL if it was offered to them.
Paul Scholes return
This story can be found in various tabloids, here’s The Sun’s version.
To summarise, papers are claiming that United players want and are urging Paul Scholes to come out of retirement and play for United again in the second half of the season. This story comes at a convenient time – United are short of central midfielders; Scholes coaches at the club; United are looking for ‘value’ again; and Fergie was asked about it yesterday.
Fergie’s response to being asked about whether Scholes was considering coming out of retirement was to laugh the story off. No doubt the current United players have a joke around with him but I somehow doubt there is something of a ‘Scholes to return campaign’ within the club as suggested by the press.
Let’s not forget, Scholes retired as he wanted to play every week at the top level and he felt he could no longer do so – 7 months later I somehow doubt that’s changed. Few would be surprised if he’s still got all the technical ability he had, if he can still ping accurate balls 50 yards; but Scholes not only required a 4-5-1 last year but also found some games just passing him by.
He’s not the answer to our midfield problems at all. Whilst the idea is nice it’s wrong. Scholes and the club have moved on and have to continue to do so, there’s no point taking a step backwards. The club should be looking to buy someone and should have bought someone a while ago – a Scholes return would smack of total desperation.
I’d rather see a youngster given a chance, and if we have to go 18 months without winning the league, so be it. We have a new generation of young midfielders, many of whom have the quality to potentially play regularly for the club but we have to have some patience. Going out to Basel in the Champions League just reiterated that the club are ready to turn a new chapter and move on, not go back.
It’s not to say than an older player isn’t an option. Henrik Larsson’s loan in 2007 was an inspired move by Fergie, he provided added experience and rejuvenated the dressing room. As a short term thing, it worked and something similar could work again; but it needs to be a player currently playing.
Scholes will always be remembered as one of the greatest midfielders the club had – he won’t want to tarnish his legacy and as fans we should hope the club take steps forwards not one back.
Both stories in their own way are embarrassing. United even being considered for CL reinstatement is horrific – we got knocked out fair and square. The story’s not of our own doing but would be embarrassing for the club if it were to happen. The Scholes story is embarrassing in that it sums up what our midfield has become; through injuries and through lack of quality. He’s not the answer.