By Rasheed Abu Bakar
Once again, Paul Scholes is making it hard for Sir Alex Ferguson to replace him.
The 37-year-‘young’ playmaker bossed the midfield for the 71 minutes he was on the pitch, and did more than enough to ensure United could afford to operate in second gear for the rest of the game.
With last week's hat-trick hero Robin van Persie on the bench, Javier Hernandez and strike partner Danny Welbeck threatened from the word 'go', but they did little to trouble the Wigan goal.
In particular, the latter looked the most dangerous player on the field, but undid all the reputation he made for himself last season (and at EURO 2012) after tumbling in the box at the slightest contact from Latics goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
The resulting penalty miss from Hernandez was justice for Welbeck’s fragile knees and at that moment, the Stretford End started to mentally prepare for a ‘one-of-those-days’-type of games.
Scholes is all too familiar with such games, and he did not let another one materialize here.
On his 700th appearance for the club, the evergreen ginger-haired midfielder simply carried on doing what he has done best all these years at United - linking defence and attack, spraying passes from one end to the other and breaking up play with reckless tackles.
His very private and media-shy demeanour is forgotten once he barges into tackles, often carelessly; this the only time he gets into trouble with Ferguson.
Apart from that, Scholes has the knack of contributing goals – goals from midfield that win you games when your strikers are having a day-off.
Ghosting into the box, Scholes was on hand to receive Al-Habsi’s charity after the Omani international had spilled a cross from Nani, easily tapping in the rebound for United’s opener to calm the crowd and his teammates' nerves.
Ferguson has a host of options at his disposal for the midfield berths, but Scholes’ class and accuracy is hard to come by.
The nonchalant way he passes the ball and his awareness of teammates is testament to his talent and often the way United unlock defences. Some skills can be drilled into a player at the training ground, but class comes from within.
Tom Cleverley and summer-signing Shinji Kagawa both have the potential to be great players, but it takes years of experience to dictate play the way Scholes did against Wigan. Never mind that Michael Carrick looked a little jaded; with Scholes in the team, you just knew he was going to hit 30, 40-yard passes with ease.
Former teammate Gary Neville referred to the midfielder as “the best English player of his generation”, and many more in the game would agree.
The Salford-born agent 700 has confirmed he won’t play beyond this season, and Old Trafford knows it will take more than a glass of water and two Panadols to overcome the headache of replacing one of United’s quietest, consistent and greatest servants.