Giggs And Scholes Rolled Back The Years
United beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at White Hart Lane last night. It was a brilliant performance, both teams played adventurous, open football, displayed plenty of skill and pace. But United fully deserved to win because their two creative directors were simply too good for Spurs.
I'm talking about Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. It's been often stated on this website that they are no longer up to the demands of regular Premiership football and when they aren't at their very best they must be considered liabilities. I must say that I stand by these views and with great regret I must say that their best surfaces on less and less occasions these days.
However, it's been a long time since we've seen both playing in such a form. Giggs, abysmal against Arsenal but vital in the two goals we scored then, started poorly again but his goal obviously lifted him and he was electric and dangerous when cutting in from the left, threading passes, providing dangerous crosses.
Scholes, who had a very forgettable 2008/09, was, for the most part, magnificent, every bit the creative, skilful midfielder we've grown to love over the years, not the shadow he's become in recent years. His very harsh red card obviously takes some off the gloss away - he should have stayed on his feet, with a yellow card to his name - but it should not be forgotten that for 60 minutes most of our attacks went through Paul Scholes.
Of course, to reach this level - which, regrettably, cannot be expected from them every week - the others had to put in the mother of all shifts. Rooney looked less sharp in the first 60 minutes than usual but he was constantly moving, creating space, drawing defenders out of position. Berbatov did likewise and Anderson was superb, harassing and distributing with unusual efficiency.
Darren Fletcher, though, had a mixed game. He is not a right midfielder and he demonstrated that again: he cannot really play that position. However, defensively he was excellent, and when he was moved to the middle after the red card he became a giant again, doing more than anyone to prevent Spurs from building up any kind of momentum and he even had the time to help out John O'Shea who looked a little dazed on occasions and frequently lost his man.
Evra, of course, did his best to show that my remarks about his psychological disadvantage against Aaron Lennon is a whole load of rubbish: he did an excellent job of containing the Spurs man and he had the strength to support the attacks, most notably when his awareness and good crossing resulted in that absolutely astonishing triple miss (Rooney, Berbatov, Berbatov, in that order).
We actually improved after going down to 10 men as Spurs threw caution to the wind and Rooney relished the space afforded to him. Carrick, though still very, very far off his best, did a reasonable job of shoring up the midfield (ably assisted, as I said, by the absolutely excellent Fletcher) and Giggs was masterful. However, it was the Scottish player again who threaded a delightful pass to Rooney who beat two men before slotting the ball home between Cudicini's legs.
Our defending was rock-solid by then even though there plenty of shaky moments in the first half and Foster had to make one great save from Jenas while Crouch hit the bar and Keane should have scored at the start of the second half. But as Rio's confidence grew - remember, it was his first game of the season - he and Vidic became more composed and assured and there was no way through them after Scholes' red card.
Rooney's goal destroyed Spurs - we, with 10 men on the pitch, started toying with them and it could have been 5 had Rooney and Carrick been more decisive when practically clear on goal. But it would be churlish to complain about that after one of the classiest attacking displays of the last 12 months. Today, nobody even mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo.