Scholes was rested against Wigan on Wednesday night, and the defending champions felt his absence as they failed to exert any control over the midfield area. Reinstated against Villa, the veteran dictated the tempo of the game and United were not put under any sustained pressure by the visitors. With Scholes in tandem with Michael Carrick, this United side is much more compact in central midfield. At Wigan they were played through far too easily, and missed Scholes’ composure on the ball that can slow the pace of a game down and take the sting out of opponents.
Home advantage aided the cause yesterday against Villa, which United will have once again when they host Everton next Sunday in the early kick-off. By the time Manchester City start at Molineux, the defending champion’s lead could be restored to eight points. With Wolves facing relegation if they fail to beat City, they will be fighting desperately, which could upset the team currently lying second in the table.
Should United and City both win however, the showdown at the Etihad will be very much on. United could go into that game with the opportunity to secure the title on their rival’s turf.
For that possibility to be alive, United will need Scholes’ dictating flow to be in full force against an Everton side that have climbed to seventh in the table after a dreadful start. The whole week between games ought to give the 37-year-old more than enough recovery time, especially after being withdrawn against Villa with the game secure.
Since he came out of retirement in January, United have take 37 out of a possible 39 points from the league games in which he has appeared. The aim against Everton will be to take that unbeaten run with Scholes in the team to 40 points. He would then have another full week of rest before the game against City on April 30. If the five-point gap remains going into that match, United will feel that any form of result should be enough, leaving them only two points to find from a home game against Swansea and a trip to Sunderland.
If United go on to secure the league title at City, it would be a remarkable coincidence in that it was at the same ground in the FA Cup that the shock of Scholes’ return was revealed. Since that game, United have looked very strong and composed in the league.
A huge part of the confidence that United have shown has been down to the form of Scholes, and they will hope he has a couple more important performances in him before the season reaches its conclusion.