Man Utd 3, Bolton 0
Golden oldie Paul Scholes may yet prove to be Manchester United’s not so secret weapon in the fight for honours on three fronts this season.
The 37-year-old former England midfielder, called out of retirement last week and registered to play for the rest of the season, scored the first of United’s three goals against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford.
But his influence extended far beyond his goal with his vision proving vital to United’s victory.
Scholes’ passing has always been top class. But his tackling -often leaving much to be desired – was vital as the Reds sought to build on his opener.
United had battered struggling Bolton without reward in a one-sided first half.
That was until Scholes struck seconds into first-half injury time.
Rafael Da Silva’s throw on the the right opened the way for Luis Nani and Wayne Rooney’s link up to take the ball into the Bolton box.
Rooney’s final pass across the penalty area was helped on by Danny Welbeck to the far post where Scholes struck with a low shot into the net from six yards.
It was Scholes’ first league goal at Old Trafford since February, 2009, and ended 45 minutes’ sheer frustration for the Reds, caused partly by their squandering of numerous chances and partly by the brilliance of Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
The 24-year-old Hungarian produced a series of superb saves to deny Welbeck and Nani.
But his best was reserved to keep out Rooney’s 21st minute penalty.
Zat Knight was lucky to receive only a yellow not red card from referee Peter Walton when he dragged down Welbeck in the Wanderers box as the England man raced on to Antonio Valencia’s through ball.
Rooney stepped up to hit the resulting spot kick towards the top right corner of the net, only to be denied by Bogdan hurling himself in the same direction to claw away the ball.
Bolton presented more of a threat after the interval.
David Ngog should have done better with a close range effort than blast it high and wide, while the Reds had a let off in the 68th minute.
Gretar Rafn Steinsson’s near post header from Martin Petrov’s corner looped towards the far corner of the net and it took a goal-line clearance by Rafael to save the day.
The warning seemd to inject a note of reality into United’s play that a one-goal advantage was too precarious.
In the 74th minute, substititute Ryan Giggs set the wheels in motion for a second goal when he found Rooney 30 yards from the Bolton goal.
Rooney manged to bundle the ball forward to Welbeck, who guided his shot home from 12 yards, despite the intervention of Bolton defender Sam Ricketts.
Welbeck’s effort saw him go off suffering from a twisted knee, but it was no surprise when United made it 3-0 seven minutes from time.
Giggs this time found Carrick and he looped a glorious left-footed 25-yard shot into the bottom corner of the net.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to Scholes after the game.
He said: “Scholes popped up when he should have been controlling the centre of midfield, but he has got that instinct for goals and he did it again.
“You never lose the quality and he has been training hard for weeks.”