Scholes. The ginger maestro has been instrumental in United’s resurgence this term.

by Amrita Singh

All United fans, myself included, place emphasis and sentiment on all league titles. #18 was on par with Liverpool. #19 surpassed Liverpool whilst King Kenny was at the reigns. #20, well.. if it is to be done it’ll be while missing key players and defeating the noisy neighbours with unlimited funds. But have United done as well as previous campaigns or have they done worse than they anticipated?

This season has been memorable so far, perhaps not for the right reasons. Between 6-1 drubbings, racism allegations and player revolts at Chelsea, what stands out most is the poor showing in the English league. Over the past few seasons, The Best League in the World has seen the exit of some of it’s finest players – Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso – to name a few, all stars once adored by their respective clubs’ supporters. Notably these players have opted for life in La Liga. This is what would seem to be the strongest league – the league in which the best players earn their living. So with a noticeably weaker league this season, will this take a shine off the title?

United, by all accounts, have been up and down this campaign. It started so well as Tom Cleverly set to be installed as the long-term midfield replacement and fast, fluid counter- attacking football was the order of the day. Surely beating any Arsenal team 8 – 2 has to give a team confidence that borders on invincibility? And this was perhaps United’s downfall – complacency, over-confidence, exuberance.

6 – 1 was a harsh reality check. And yet there was an arrogance about United right until the very end of that match – still trying to attack and (probably) win, despite conceding three after 90 minutes. While Mario Balotelli stole the headlines with his own insolence of the ‘Why Always Me?’ t–shirt, United’s arrogance had slipped under the radar. 10 men and 3 – 1 down, even Sir Alex admitted his side didn’t know when they were beaten. Now, some fans will say that is not the United way, don’t sit back, never accept defeat. I agree but please read on…

Exit from the Champions League came as a shock. As a United fan (and this may sound arrogant now) I sat there thinking ‘I can’t believe we are in the Europa League!’. In attendance for all Champions League home games this season, I can honestly say they were some of the worst performances I have seen from United in Europe. The only logical conclusion to draw from those performances is that United underestimated their opponents. The team lacked a focus and a hunger that their opponents didn’t take for granted. Three finals in four years can do that to you apparently.

A group containing Otelul Galati, Benfica and FC Basel – many United fans were rubbing their hands together with glee. The manager cannot be excused from criticism either, fielding Owen and Berbatov, in group matches, the former being a fringe player and the latter not trusted to play in United’s bigger games because of his style. It was not, however, the personnel that was the problem. With all the experience in the team, qualification to the knockout stages should have been relatively straightforward but United’s attitude towards the competition had let them down. It was not expected that United would reach the final or win the Champions League by most fans. “Quarters or semis, at best” would be the reply of most, considering the squad and the gaping Scholes shaped hole we had in midfield. But to not make the knockout stages was unprecedented.

Manchester United needed humbling. And it had arrived, losing their CL reputation and dropping into the Europa league. More significantly, it came in the form of a ginger haired man of 37 – enter Paul Scholes. Any United fan that tells you there wasn’t a hint of worry/embarrassment that came with the announcement of Scholes’ return ahead of that Manchester derby, is doing so to spare their blushes. This team, the team that played with such swagger at the beginning of the season was being saved by a man who had already hung up his boots. Yet United have not looked back since – younger players have flourished, Scholes has been anchored in midfield, and Carrick has been as consistent as ever before. United have improved on their win percentage by just under 20% since Scholes’ return. And maybe, it was just what they needed. A little local lad, old fashioned, stubborn and a million miles away from the arrogance of modern football and a sense of entitlement.

This season has certainly been a learning curve to the players, club and the fans. Expectations will now be realistic, nothing will be taken for granted and the need to strengthen the midfield is clearer than ever. At times this season it has been a case of; just arrogant, not better. However, by the end of the season, we may just be able to switch those adjectives back again.