Scholes shows he's still got it, Tottenham falters under spotlight
Five things we learned from the week's action in the Barclays Premier League.
His returned this month raised eyebrows and drew comment to the extent that Ferguson felt last week that he had to defend the decision. This season United's midfield, undermined by injury, illness and failure to land the right player has been a disaster. Ferguson has never seemed bothered by a player's age and has always been willing to buck conventional thinking. On Saturday he was rewarded for his faith in Scholes.
Some of his passing was rusty and Scholes only lasted 68 minutes. But after United had spent the first half vainly trying to break down Bolton, even wasting a penalty, Scholes struck in typical fashion in injury time. He pounced on a loose ball to score with a coolness that belied the significance of the moment. After he left, United scored twice more and won, easily, 3-0. Scholes still has a part to play.
Wolves have been something of a problem team for Spurs in recent years. Two seasons ago, when Tottenham finished fourth, it lost both games to Wolves, 1-0. On Saturday, Spurs had some bad luck. Wolves took the lead from a corner that shouldn't have been given. Just before halftime, Emmanuel Adebayor netted only to be ruled offside because the assistant referee apparently didn't notice a Wolves player on the far side of the penalty area nearer the goal line. But Spurs only have themselves to blame. Once again, their finishing was wasteful. Gareth Bale continued shooting as if he thinks he's playing rugby, putting a string of efforts over the bar. Luka Modric did score, but also squandered a series of chances. Spurs had some 22 goal attempts, but Wayne Hennessey, the Wolves goalie hardly had a difficult save to make.
The 1-1 draw means Spurs have scored just 10 goals in eight league games. For all the praise their play has drawn, that isn't a title-winning strike rate.
When transfer interest from bigger clubs swirled around Cahill in the summer, he stayed quiet as Bolton refused bids that did not match its £13 million ($19M) valuation. Perhaps he was demonstrating a refreshing level of professionalism and loyalty. More likely, Cahill, or his agent, had read the economic research into British soccer which suggests that as a player nears the end of his contract, the fee his club can ask drops sharply, while the wages he can expect climb dramatically. Reports that Bolton had accepted a bid of only £7 million ($10M) from Chelsea while the player was asking for £120,000 ($180,000) a week suggest the latter.
If Bolton was now safely in midtable, the money lost, would have been worth it. As it is, Wanderers are mired in the relegation zone and needs to find a mid-season replacement. Mark Lawrenson, the former Liverpool center back, said on the BBC on Saturday that he felt Cahill had been playing "with the hand-brake on" to avoid injury.
Given Chelsea's spending habits, the fee is tiny. If Cahill becomes a regular starter, it will hardly be a gamble. But is he good enough? While David Luiz represents a gamble on athletic ability and ball flair, signing Cahill is a bet on character. There is a long tradition of ungainly English center backs who have compensated for a lack of pace with intelligence, discipline, toughness, leadership, surprising levels of skill and an eye for goal. Jack Charlton, the World Cup winning No. 5, is one. More recently Terry Butcher, Tony Adams and, the man Cahill is presumably intended to replace, John Terry have all led England. At 26, Cahill has, rather late in life, become an England regular. Yet there have been moments his season when he has appeared less than rock solid. He did a Luiz against Tottenham in December. He was caught in possession in his own half and responded with a foul that earned a red card. He often seems to lack Terry's uncanny knack for being in the right place at exactly the right moment. In the 5-0 home defeat to United in September, Cahill was a step away from where he should have been for every goal. If nothing else, having needles stuck into him at Chelsea, and watching his new team play from the stands, will have been preferable to actually playing in a Bolton defense that was once again put to the sword by Manchester United.
If Chelsea is paying even two thirds of what Cahill asked and he doesn't turn out to be the next Terry, they are going to be stuck with him for four years.