club world cup

Scholes admits League focus over Japan trip

December 14, 2008

Paul Scholes has admitted he would prefer to be playing for Premier League points than the chance to be crowned world champions.

A notoriously reluctant traveller, Scholes' personal view of nine days in Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup is perhaps no surprise.

But it also highlighted the problem Manchester United will be left to face once they return from the Far East as they try to make up for lost time in the quest to complete a title hat-trick.

Sepp Blatter's worthy, but flawed, attempt to get the best club sides on the planet together in a mini version of the World Cup we are accustomed to will be just a fading memory on dank nights in January and February.

Yet it is then that the true significance of United's nine-day visit will truly be established as they make up the two games they have yet to play as a direct consequence of their Champions League Final win last May.

''It's a big club competition and we want to win,'' said Scholes.

''But obviously, we'd probably rather be here, playing our league game and not have so many fixtures in January like we've got.

''It's one of those things. We managed to win the European Cup last year and sometimes afterwards you have to do things maybe you don't want to do.''

In fairness to Sir Alex Ferguson, he has never given the impression of not wanting to compete, although it is presumably because, as a by-product of Champions League glory, the United boss is prepared to endure such logistical difficulties on an annual basis.

Had Ryan Giggs' late free-kick sneaked in at White Hart Lane yesterday, the Scot would have been boarding the plane with a real spring in his step.

Instead, Heurelho Gomes produced a wonder save, meaning United were unable to take maximum advantage of Liverpool's unexpected slip-up against Hull.

Not that Scholes is complaining too much. Spurs are a revitalised outfit under Harry Redknapp and the former England star feels the point will look quite good at the season's end.

''We would have liked to win but coming to a place like this is tough and we will take a point,'' he said.

''It is a bit frustrating not to be closer to those at the top.

''But Liverpool were expected to beat Hull so our point is probably a better one than theirs.''

If Scholes will head to Japan in somewhat reluctant mood, the trip does give him an opportunity to reach full match sharpness.

His second-half appearance at White Hart Lane was only his third as a substitute since undergoing knee surgery at the end of September, so Thursday's semi-final in Yokohama and an expected final appearance next Sunday should get Scholes much nearer the level he wants to be.

''I am not far off,'' he said.

''Maybe I can try for 70, 80 or eve 90 minutes in Japan and can come on from that.''