Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Billy on the Box: Santa’s back but it’s Roy who is Keane to deliver

Back: Paul Scholes

And to think some people say there’s no Santa Claus. My letter to Lapland, thankfully not mixed up this year with the one I sent to Lapdancingland, which is still being investigated, asked the big man with the white hair in the red suit if he could bring back the wee man with the orange hair in the red shirt.

And lo and behold it happened on Sunday as Paul Scholes reappeared on the Manchester United bench for the clash with the noisy neighbours in the romance that is the FA Cup.

It was a no brainer for ITV to pick this as their main match but it’s hardly the stuff of third round dreams.

There were much better games to show than Peterborough v Sunderland and over on ESPN it wasn’t much better as we had Bristol Rovers against Aston Villa.

Let’s be honest, they were never going to set the world on fire, were they, whereas if you look in the Big Boy’s Book of FA Cup clichés, subsection ‘Shocks’, the names of Bolton and Wigan would have been in big, bold writing.

It’s certainly big and bold, or desperate (delete as applicable) for Fergie to turn to an ageing midfield maestro whose legs have gone (there’s still hope for me yet) but it’s a policy that is serving ITV just fine.

Everywhere you looked at the weekend there was a former member of the Old Trafford engine-room. The highlights on Saturday night had Paul Ince and Gordon Strachan, the main event had Roy Keane and even David Beckham turned up in the crowd.

If Ralph Milne had appeared, I really would have been too far by myself to even countenance a shock return.

But Roy is the boy, although you just get the feeling he’s just one cheeky comment away from warmly embracing Adrian Chiles by the throat, and not a court in the land would convict.

Even when Roy jokes there’s a menace and this was him in good form because United won, alongside a less chirpy Peter Reid and Gareth Southgate just pleased to be there.

It was quite the first-half, a badge-kissing goal from Rooney, Kompany’s daft sending off for frightening wee Nani, a wonder goal from Danny Welbeck (words not used very often) and then a headed penalty goal from Wayne and his hair.

“You’re not allowed tackle any more, that’s the problem with the game — it’s getting a bit delicate,” Roy sighed.

And he meant it, too. This is a man who used to go in studs-up when he hugged his granny.

We had just enough time for Adrian to do his best impression of a bumbling buffoon in handing back to Clive Tyldesley but given he sounded more like Fred Elliott I was waiting for Ivy Tilsley to speak. They really should give him a chat show. Oh.

But even more surprising was a great City comeback, and for one moment the romance of the Cup looked to be back as the Blues threatened the mother of all shocks.

You’d have thought they’d won at the end, Chiles tried in vain to say it was a moral victory but Roy was having none of it.

“You can give credit to Man City, but the bottom line is they’re out of the Cup,” he pointed out, leaving the assembled non-United members of ITV to sigh but say nothing just in case he snapped.

A bit like Roberto Mancini in his post-match non-interview with Gabriel Clarke, who refused to say anything remotely interesting, mumbled repeatedly and came across like a cross between Fabio Capello and, well, Adrian Chiles.

I can’t wait until this Sunday as ITV unveil their new chat show, Mancini’s My Kind of People, Chris Foy not invited.

But at least the draw with Jim Rosenthal provided the romance we’d been sadly missing all weekend as a struggling minnow desperate to make it to the big time will take on their more successful near neighbours.

A big one for Kenny and the boys to look forward to.

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