When he reversed his decision to retire in January, many critics wondered whether Paul Scholes could still produce his best on the top-flight stage. The move, called an act of desperation by some, has proved to be a masterstroke. Although he did not get the opportunity to display his wonderful passing ability on many occasions, the free-flowing Scholes of old was on show. Pushing forward at every opportunity paid off for the veteran as he netted the opening United goal with 27 minutes gone. Midfield partner Michael Carrick supplied the set-up for the goal, which was finished off with a neat flick. Unbelievably, the Red Devils are unbeaten in the last 23 games that the 37-year-old has scored in, winning 19 and drawing four, since a defeat by Benfica in December 2005. That goal, his fourth of the campaign, ensure he would have his best scoring season in five years, since netting six times in 2006-07.
Throughout the 90 minutes at Old Trafford, Carrick produced one of his best displays in a Manchester United shirt. The former Tottenham midfielder was involved in all of the good moments that the home side produced and did his hopes of an England recall no harm. He was involved in the build-up play to United’s first goal, making the final pass for central-midfield partner Scholes to finish. A second assist of the match nearly came shortly after, but Javier Hernández couldn’t convert the close-range chance. Normally shackled by defensive duties, Carrick showed a more expansive side to his armoury, something which will have pleased his manager.
The abilities of Neil Taylor and Àngel Rangel were given a stern examination by the home wingers in this game. Both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young showed signs of their undoubted abilities, as they ensured that the Premier League title race would come down to a final day decider. Despite missing the pre-season tour of America due to an injury picked up on international duty during the Copa América, Ecuadorian Valencia has proved to have an impressive campaign. Relentlessly twisting and turning inside his marker, the 26-year-old illustrated why Sir Alex Ferguson played him ahead of Nani. The successes weren’t just confined to the right flank, with the returning Ashley Young also producing a classy display. Young has come in for criticism for going down easily to win penalties in recent outings but the former Aston Villa man looked back to his best. His precise deliveries caused problems for the Swansea backline and in the 40th minute, an accurate curling finish eluded the despairing dive of Michel Vorm, to put the game beyond Brendan Rodgers’ side. United had previously won all the Premier League matches that Young had scored in by at least a two-goal margin, against Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, and that statistic continued after this comfortable victory.
Since signing for £1.5m in the summer transfer window, Vorm has proved to be instrumental in Swansea’s achievements this season. From the beginning of his time in Wales, Vorm has taken to the English game well, showing that his transfer was an inspired one. He has effectively filled the spot left by his counterpart Dorus De Vries, who rejected a new contract in favour of moving to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite conceding four times on his top flight debut against Manchester City, the 28-year-old did not let this setback get him down and turned his debut campaign into an outstanding success. He also showcased his superb penaly record, saving spot-kicks in matches against Wigan and Fulham, and will surely be in the thoughts of national team boss Bert van Marwijk as they prepare for Euro 2012.
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