It has been a tricky start to 2012 for Manchester United. The jaw-dropping, last-gasp defeat at home to bottom-feeders Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Eve – Sir Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday, of all days – was followed up with a thoroughly disheartening loss at the hands of a more confident, more creative and more entertaining Newcastle United. On top of that, the club has had to publicly refute reports – again – that talismanic striker Wayne Rooney is on his way out of the club after more rumours of a breakdown in his relationship with Ferguson.

Paul Scholes’ return could be exactly what Fergie’s side need.

The response from United was not unusual – make a big-name signing to cover over some of the cracks. The team has lacked a central midfielder ever since legendary pass master Paul Scholes retired in the summer and was not replaced. So, finally, Ferguson and David Gill have made the move they needed to make and signed a central midfielder.

Paul Scholes.

It is, by any measurement, one of the most extraordinary moments in the career of either Scholes or Ferguson. One of the Scotsman’s most trusted and loyal lieutenants over the last two decades, the combative yet fame-shy Scholes would not have retired last summer unless he felt he had nothing left to contribute to the Red Devils team he has starred for since 1994. Ferguson, meanwhile, spent the entire summer insisting that although he liked the look of Wesley Schneijder, he wasn’t desperate to sign another central midfielder and wouldn’t go actively looking for one.

Clearly the events of the past week have awoken both men to their errors. At 34, few felt Scholes was past it anywhere near as strongly as he appeared to. With Darron Gibson evidently having failed to make the grade at Old Trafford and the unfortunate illness problems of Darren Fletcher, Ferguson’s central options – Michael Carrick, Anderson, Ryan Giggs and the injury-prone Tom Cleverley – were beginning to look wafer thin. With Scholes having joined the United coaching staff following his retirement, and still taking part in first-team training sessions from time to time, this move is as convenient as it surprising.

Scholes made the bench for his grand return, and what better a game to make it in than the thrilling, end-to-end second half of United’s exorcism of the ghosts of their 6-1 embarrassment against rivals Manchester City earlier in the season. That Scholes was utilised ahead of Anderson when United were on the back foot will go a long way to confirming his importance for the rest of the club’s season – although he will be less than pleased with his second debut after gifting the ball to Pablo Zabaleta for City’s second goal.

Then, starting against Bolton at the weekend, the Ginger Ninja scored on his return to Premier League action, a typical Scholes finish created by reading the game and intelligent movement in dropping off his defender to create space.

Scholes is not alone, however, in returning to his former job this week. If you’ve watched any of the Championship in 2011/12, you’ll probably have noticed how decidedly unspectacular Nottingham Forest were in the first half of the campaign, leading to manager Steve McClaren resigning after little more than three months at the helm. Fortunately for Steve, Championship highlights clearly aren’t available in the town of Enschede in the Netherlands.

Steve McLaren has rejoined Dutch side Twente this season, after succeeding in a previous spell.

Remember two years ago, when FC Twente were in the Champions’ League off the back of a surprising Dutch league title under the stewardship of Steve McClaren? It just so happens that Twente – despite currently sitting third in the Dutch Eredivisie – ended the first half of their season on a three match losing streak, a sequence of results deemed sufficiently sub-par to cost Co Adriaanse his job as manager. And, finally, Twente appeared to discover the replacement for Steve McClaren.

The Englishman (who now reverts to his alter ego, ‘Shteve’) re-signed with the club on January 8, and according to club website he immediately joined the squad at their mid-season training camp on Gran Canaria. Look out for his first league game in control – a home tie with lowly RKC Waalwijk this Sunday. Although McClaren returns  to a weaker team following the departures of star player Bryan Ruiz and others, a Waalwijk team without a win in four games should provide him a safe game in which to experiment with some of the new talent at his disposal.

Call it Back to the Future, the Renaissance or whatever you will, but sometimes, even in the mile-a-minute developments of European football, the old is better than the new.

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