United’s old boys: to stay or to go?

Giggs and Scholes
Manchester United legends Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs to stay on for another year?

Author: Doron

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It’s that time of the year when the future of some of United’s older players usually becomes a bit clearer. With the policy of offering only one year deals in place, there are obvious doubts every year about the likes of Giggs, Scholes and now Ferdinand. Who’s likely to be kept on and maybe more importantly, who should be kept on?

Paul Scholes

He came back and performed an admirable rescue job for us last season but in truth, 2012 was a year that can be split in two for him. Upon returning, with injuries aplenty he got more than his fair share of games, and, with freshness in his legs he coped admirably considering he’d retired half a year earlier.

It’s been a slightly different story this season. Whilst he remains more than capable of pinging the most perfect airborne passes, he’s found playing tricky. The form of Carrick, Cleverley and Anderson when fit, have seen Scholes take a reserve role in the first team – brought on to try and change games or see them out rather than dominate from the start. At times, this has been good – against Spurs at home whilst United couldn’t force a win, he was extraordinary at increases United’s tempo and improving a terrible first half performance.

Yet, of late, he’s playing like someone who might be on the way out. This United side have been at their best with the injection of energy in the middle and that is not a current forte of Scholes. The classic late Scholes tackle seems to be making a more regular appearance now – surely a frustration borne out of being just that bit slower in a side trying to play to a high tempo. Of course he’s still a phenomenal master of the art of passing but with Ferguson still preferring a system with just two in the middle, Scholes won’t have the time or space he now needs.

As games come regularly and with fitness concerns still surrounding Anderson and Fletcher, Scholes will surely still play some part in the rest of the season. Beyond that though, one can only feel like this time it’ll be the end for good for Scholes as a player. Last time he left football he left on a high, as a player who remained good enough – this time, should he quit, it’ll feel right. He won’t have harmed his legacy or reputation at all – let’s not forget that the media wanted him in the England squad for Euro 2012, but it’s evident that this is a slow goodbye.

Should he be kept on? No. Will he be? It seems unlikely. What United must do this time is replace him properly though. Cleverley’s consistency is doing some of that but there’s no denying that United still need some additional quality in the middle. Failing to replace Scholes last time hit us hard and that needs avoiding again.

Ryan Giggs

Attempting to analyse Giggs is considerably harder. To some, his legend dictates that a bad word cannot be uttered against him. To others, he’s simply finished. It feels important to be objective when discussing Ryan, particularly when talk of a new contract comes into it. One can only judge on what a player is currently doing rather than what he achieved in years gone by.

Arguably this makes it even harder to get to grips with the player. Ryan goes in and out of patches of form which has a huge impact on the general sentiment surrounding him. For example recent performances of his have been an absolute joy to watch but only a few months ago he was playing dreadfully. United have actually used and managed him very sensibly – unless necessary, he’s not featured in the biggest games against the toughest teams. Rather, it’s cup games and rotated league sides that he’s played in – it’s easier to perform better in those.

Then there’s also the debate of where he plays. As a central midfielder he, like Scholes, has looked off the pace this season. In that position, the percentages matter and giving the ball away is simply unacceptable. Giggs, for whatever reason, hasn’t excelled at that this year and his flick passes have sometimes been poor decisions. Defensively, he doesn’t seem to be in the right place that often with the classic hands on his hips and head cocked pose being used a lot.

As noted though, it’s not all doom and gloom. Whilst his season started badly, it’s improved as he’s been involved more often in the last month. Notably, his use out wide has been a revelation as the conserved energy in his legs and that infamous body swerve have been used to a good effect. Fitness may not be an issue for him but there are genuine footballing concerns that shouldn’t be overlooked. On balance, he probably shouldn’t sign a new deal but I fully expect him to, particularly after Fergie’s most recent comments.

Even if ineffective in the middle, Giggs’ still provides cover and flexibility – used and managed right there is a place for him in the squad but potentially the club should be looking to bring in a new winger (we’re short on numbers) as well as a new central midfielder this summer making a need to hold onto Giggs reduced. This is what I’d hope for anyway and I suspect Giggs would still be in and around the club most likely as a coach, so his experience will continue to be put to good use. If this is to be his final few months, let’s enjoy it.

Rio Ferdinand

Whilst those unconnected with United have been trying to write Rio off for a few years now, he keeps responding by proving the doubters wrong. Arguably the competition at centre back hasn’t been this strong for a long time, particularly with Evans’ incredible improvements, and yet if you were to name a first choice pairing, it’d be near impossible to leave Rio out. Why is there still then some debate about his future?

With Rio it’s all a calculated gamble. Whilst he continues to perform so well and so consistently, there is very much a ‘managing’ aspect to him. This is a first choice player who cannot play every game. At 34 there’s bound to be some kind of decline at some point – he’s simply not a fitness freak like a Maldini who can go on and on. With that in mind, United have to weigh up when that time will come, when Jones, Smalling or Evans are firmly ahead of him. Rio won’t be a player who can be third or fourth choice – although unable to play every game, he needs to play as regularly as his body will let him so he maintains form. Without games, one gets the impression he will quickly start to lose it. So, if that’s to be next season, then it makes sense that United may be reluctant to give him a new deal and he may seek a change – either a final big payday, a move back to his roots at West Ham or the end altogether so he can focus on his non-football ventures.

For me, this one is more straightforward than Giggs or Scholes – Rio’s certainly a good enough defender and his performances against some of the league’s best strikers this season have been outstanding. A new deal is the least he deserves. Mind you, my gut for some reason says the club and Rio may part ways with a testimonial game his last contribution.

Darren Fletcher

The final part of this piece is for Fletcher, a player who’s not part of the ‘one year deal’ club but someone who must surely also have big question marks over his future.

When a professional player is excluded over the winter games because heavy pitches don’t suit him you know that something’s not quite right. Fletcher’s admirable and brave return from his illness has been uncomfortable to watch – not least because he’s now trying to be a completely different player to the one he was… and it doesn’t suit him.

Formerly a box-to-box maestro, his use now predominantly in the holding role is awkward – he’s not got the range of passing to make it work nor the energy in his legs to be in the right place all the time like Carrick is. It’s been sad but anyone who’s watched him should be able to see that something’s not quite right. Of course saying assertively that he’s finished would be foolish but if this was a player at another club there’s no way we’d be interested in adding him to our squad so why should he continue to hold down a place in the team at present. It says a lot that he couldn’t even make the bench in an FA Cup replay.

There is an emotional connection to Darren – he’s a model professional, someone who keeps a low profile and has won over the boo-boys in the past. It’s all the more painful because the old Fletcher is exactly the kind of player United could do with now. If the club feel there’s a chance that he can get back to a good enough standard and get fit enough then he’ll surely be given every chance possible but against my heart, right now I feel his place should go to someone who is actually able to contribute to the team next season.

5 Comments on United’s old boys: to stay or to go?

  1. Interesting article with which I mostly concur.

    Paul Scholes is no longer a “ninja” – his legs are gone and his reaction-times are becoming very slow.

    Ryan Giggs is now – and has always been – amazingly inconsistent within the game – e.g., last night.

    Rio Ferdinand has lost more than a step and, like Scholes, his reaction-times are no longer adequate so he is increasingly likely to be run around/run past (e.g., against Spurs @ OT or even in the build up to the goal on Sunday when he simply stood-like-a-pylon).

    Darren Fletcher’s health will never permit him to regain his “football genius” mode.

    For what it’s worth, I reckon Scholes will retire, Giggs will stay on, Rio won’t accept a demotion, and DarrenFletcherinho will come to terms with his unfortunate condition.

    SO – assuming that Nani is on the way out, too – that means UTD’s wage bill will be reduced by about 400,000 per week which will go a long way towards funding the introduction of four new guys. And since three of these players are wingers/midfielders it would seem that SAF will finally have to bite-the-bullet and buy reinforcements in that area, whetheror not there is value in the market.

    Seen in that perspective, not only are the next few months likely to be a last hurrah for some of the team’s core-veterans but Ryan Giggs’ dressing-room presence is likely to be highly valued for at least one more season.

  2. @Denton Davey – despite general fan opinion, I still don’t think Nani’s necessarily on his way out – we simply can’t afford to sell a winger without replacing him and I’m not sure there are many top quality wingers out there to be honest.

    I also still think Rio’s good enough – he lost his pace a couple of years ago but has adjusted superbly – sure someone like Bale will always outpace him but with most forwards, he gives them a yard of space in front of him knowing they can’t turn him – if he gets tight he’ll be turned and they’ll sprint past him but he’s gotten excellent at standing them up.

  3. I’m completely with you about Nani – he has exceptional skill but seems to be somewhat fragile (both physically and mentally) BUT he’s the best winger in this team and can play on either side. What I’d most like to see from him is a commitment to playing faster rather than holding the ball and trying to beat his marker. He needs to watch KagawaBunga’s one-touch passing to see how to make the ball do the work but he’s probably been told that already !

    About Rio, I’m not sure. He’s adjusting to his declining speed/mobility and reads the game very well BUT he seems ever-more susceptible to being “turned”, not just by a speed-merchant like Bale but also by someone like StevieGBH in the match on Sunday when he just stood like a pylon and didn’t challenge Gerrard’s shot. He’s been a really great player but it looks to me that he’s losing his edge and seems to be evolving into a “merely” good player. Plus, I wouldn’t think that he’d be amenable to a lesser role at reduced wages although none of us know what goes through these guys’ minds. Maybe he’d relish the role of “senior mentor”.

  4. Good Piece, have to agree with most of it.

    Paul Scholes – Lets face it we are pretty much back to where we were 2009-2010 season when you could see the 60 minute mark being a bridge too far. That season we also saw Giggs & Carrick become the first choice middle 2. What he did last season exceeded expectation and was a testament to the character and commitment to the club. He is not the sort of player to want to be a bit part or impact sub so I think he will do the honorable thing himself.

    Ryan Giggs – I am torn on this. The West Ham game papers over a lot of cracks. He thoroughly deserves the MOTM award & the accolades from that game but the reality is would you want to see Giggs lining up in CM against Real? No.
    Giggs has always from day 1 been inconsistent. Maybe thats just the nature of being a wide player. Barring Ronaldo & Messi which are on another level most wingers generally play in fits and starts. It isn’t a trait though that can be easily afforded in the CM.
    I do think Giggs could play a role as an impact player from the bench as there are not many players better at seeing a defense splitting reverse pass or a clever ball over the top in the dying minute of a game. The problem is with a 1 year extention in the back pocket and being fit to play our manager will continue to start him in the CM a gamble which sometimes comes off but very often doesn’t to find us chasing control of the game.

    Rio – I think Rio is fine for another 2 years. He needs to managed game wise, but there are a lot of games in United season and lets face it, in terms of injury he is no less reliable than any of the other Central defenders. Calling him out against Spurs is a little unfair, I’m not sure many defenders in world foot ball would have much of change against Bale at full pelt. There were a couple of other players who should have closed down higher up the pitch as well.

    Fletch – I would like to see the club do right by him for his service. At the same time how long do we have to be a body light in CM(or 2 if Scholes goes)before we do something about it? For me Fletcher is a very limited player to begin with and to refrain from entering the transfer market would be crazy. At the end of the day we will have seen Hargreaves, Fletcher & Scholes all step out (not counting Pogba) with only Cleverly & Powell brought in. The numbers don’t stack up & neither does the quality. That wasnt a slant on the potential of Powell or Cleverly but merely comparing 3 proven internationals against to good prospects.

  5. In my opinion Giggs and Scholes can still make a contribution to our team for another season. Both players are pure class and are rightfully considered legends at the club. Both players have demonstrated that they can still make an impact at the highest level, you don’t have to look any further then Scholes’s contribution to our comeback against Southampton at St Mary’s earlier this season where RVP credited him as having changed the match in our favour and Giggsy was the crucial difference in both of our FA cup ties against West Ham. What I would say however is that both players are slowing down and you can’t play them both in the same team without slowing down the midfield, you have only to look at the way Spurs overpowered us at Old Trafford to see that. I will be gutted when Giggs and Scholes do eventually hang up their boots and call time on their careers, they have been an absolute pleasure to watch for the best part of 20 years and a key reason for our success over that period.

    For me, Rio has at least another year in him. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are the future but I feel that they need a further season (preferably injury free) before they are fully up to speed and ready to take on the mantle.

    The situation with Darren Fletcher is causing me some angst. He has recently been ruled it for another season and by next year he will be 30 and won’t have played regularly for over 2 years. Will he really be able to come backand be the player he was? I really do hope so, not only is a first team player, the way he conducts himself is a credit to his family and our club. Fingers crossed.

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