Kingmaker Scholes shines as United falter

Posted by Mark Payne

Manchester United’s run of playing badly and winning had to end at some point. This result was long overdue for Tottenham, but they only half deserved it in the end. To be specific, they deserved to win the first half. After the break, United murdered them, but to no avail.

AVB will rightly take some credit for setting up his side in a tactically successful manner and motivating his charges into taking an early 2-0 lead. However, there is no denying that United were absolutely pathetic in the first half.

After two minutes, Spurs took the lead. Ryan Giggs is the most decorated footballer in English football history; he has a legendary left foot and is a terrific example to every professional player in the game. But he is rubbish in central midfield. That is where he started, and that is why Tottenham controlled the first half.

Half an hour later, the Londoners were 2-0 up and had barely broken sweat. That made it a clean sweep of games this season in which United had been lousy in midfield. If things had continued that way, we could have been facing a battering of Manchester City proportions.

The crowd were terrific, though, defiantly supportive in the first half. Chants of ‘We love United, we do’ rang out through the ground. This is our team, and this is the show they put on for us. They’re not perfect, but I wouldn’t swap them for the world.

What made that opening period all the more alarming is that United put in a stupendous performance after the break. The discernible change was the introduction of Wayne Rooney for Giggs. Suddenly, we were a different team.

Perhaps it is Rooney’s competitiveness, his drive, and his will to win. Whatever it was, it infected the rest of the team and lit a fire under our performance. His impact was crucial and, within six minutes, he had set up the goal that opened up the match.

And boy, did it open up. Three barmy goals were scored in 140 seconds. Nani toe-poked home Rooney’s cross, but then Clint Dempsey legged it up the other end and scored.

The pick of the bunch though, was Kagawa’s strike to make it 3-2. Collecting a stupendous pass from van Persie, he managed to trap the ball, turn and finish past an experienced goalie in an incredibly crowded patch of pitch. It was impressive stuff – exquisite, and showing immense skill. United were back in it.

Our game seems to be based more on pressure and intensity now. In the first half, this pressure was non-existent, but we applied it with force after the break. Scholes, again, was magnificent in that second half. Whilst it is slightly annoying that we need him to save us every week, you can only admire the majesty of his football: the greatest English player of the last 30 years, without question.

Liverpool fans can rest easy. United also had three fairly decent penalty appeals turned down. We also hit the woodwork twice, but these are not excuses for our defeat. After a first half in which we would have lost to Accrington Stanley, there can be no complaints.

The good news is that the front trident of Van Persie, Rooney and Kagawa appears likely to become fearsome. With those three on the field, we looked like a great side. But again Scholes was the kingmaker, and without him we struggle. Fergie will be advised to conduct his half-time team talks before the match from now on.

The lethargy at the start was appalling, but this breathless game of football will live long in the memory. For all the positives we can draw from the excellence of our forwards, this is a very early juncture of the season and we have lost two games already. In some seasons, that would cost you the league. We can only hope this isn’t one of them.

Follow Mark on

ESPN Conversations