Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Steven Beacom: Rooney won’t ever have the class of Scholes

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the winning goal during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow

The Manchester United fan ran on to hug Wayne Rooney as he lay smiling on the Ibrox turf. A few weeks ago most United supporters wanted to hit him, not hug him, after he declared he wanted out of the club.

The roller-coaster ride, that is Rooney's remarkable life, continues. You get the feeling it's always going to be that way.

After enduring months of low points, Rooney enjoyed a high in Glasgow last night scoring a late penalty to guarantee United's spot in the knockout stages of the Champions League, eliminating Rangers in the process.

Walter Smith's side will compete in the much maligned Europa League next year.

Deservedly so because they were desperately negative on their own patch.

Pre-match, Smith said his players would show no fear.

Sorry Walter, they did and so did you.

Rangers, knowing they needed to win to give themselves a chance of staying in the competition, played with just one up front — Kenny Miller — until the 88th minute, by which time they were already 1-0 down. Astonishing.

At least in the scoreless draw at Old Trafford earlier in the group stages, you could understand the tactics, if not be on the edge of your seat by them.

But surely the situation last night demanded a more positive approach. The Rangers fans certainly deserved one.

Smith may say that Miller had good chances in the first half.

With a bit of support, he could have had a few more.

From the first whistle United were the team in control and should have had a penalty, when Steve Davis felled Dimitar Berbatov, well before they actually got one after Steven Naismith nearly kicked Fabio's head off.

Rooney, of course, will capture the headlines, but the players who made United tick in Glasgow were the old stagers — men Wayne says he wants to emulate.

You have a long way to go mate, on and off the pitch. Do a million marathons and you might start getting close.

What a luxury it is for Ferguson to still be able to call on legends like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs for occasions like this.

With Rangers fans baying for blood, especially Rooney's, the visitors could have been caught up in the searing heat of it all.

Not when Scholes and Giggs are around. Cooler than ice that pair. Scholes was caressing passes with the accuracy of a Roger Federer forehand down the line while Giggs, just back from injury, offered the experience of someone who has seen it all and the energy of a teenager. The Welshman is 37 next week. Scholes has just turned 36.

No wonder Ferguson is keen for them to continue for as long as possible.

He'll want them to play into their 40s and with their ability, awareness and awesome knowledge of the game, there is no reason why they couldn't as long as they maintain their fitness.

Ferguson, to his credit, uses them to perfection.

He doesn't overcook them or undercook them. He gets them just right.

They remain two of the tastiest players in Britain.

Forget Rooney ever leaving, you wonder what United are going to do without their dynamic duo when they decide to call it quits.

That other outstanding veteran Gary Neville only plays cameo roles these days, and not too well if truth be told. Replacing a right-back is one thing, which United have done pretty well with John O'Shea. Replacing the world class attacking talent of Scholes and Giggs, not to mention the influence they have on the kids at the club, is something else entirely.

Ferguson has already admitted he will require genuine big name footballers to compensate for their loss.

He's right because the hole needed filling will be as big as the Grand Canyon.

Only when Ferguson himself leaves will there be an even larger space left at Old Trafford, which only the ego and expertise of Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho would be able to occupy.

Sir Alex would love to meet Jose in this season's Champions League final at Wembley. That would be a special one.

With Giggs and Scholes, and yes Rooney, producing the goods, such a thrilling prospect is a distinct possibility.

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