Henry magic; Scholes embarrassment

So our TV sets weren't playing tricks on us when Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes came back on the pitch again.

Football News: Thierry Henry.
Steve McMahon

By Steve McMahon

By Steve McMahon

What a fairytale return it was for Henry, who proved he still has the same magic that once lit up the Premier League and gave Arsenal fans plenty of cheer.

And it was back to the good old days for the Emirates faithful when the Frenchman came on in the 68th minute to score the winner in trademark fashion against Leeds United in the FA Cup third round match on Monday.

It felt as if Henry had never been away. And his fairytale comeback has only made his romance with Arsenal a whole lot sweeter and his recently erected statue a tad bigger.

One can understand Wenger's decision to hand his protégé a return to the club. The Gunners' coach has lost the likes of Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh to the African Cup of Nations and Wenger knows it would be a big ask to find any world class player during the winter transfer window.

The arrival of Henry will not only give him, an extra option up front with Robin van Persie, but perhaps some selection headaches as well. Don't be surprised if Henry makes another appearance off the Arsenal bench against Swansea this weekend - and even scores another winning goal!

However, Scholes' shocking return cannot be viewed in the same light. His return just six months after retirement is nothing short of an embarrassment - both for the player and Manchester United.

While Henry has maintained his fitness and match sharpness by playing in Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls, the same could not be said of his United counterpart, who has been spending his time coaching the reserves.

It was a pathetic decision by Sir Alex Ferguson to recall his old servant in a desperate move to help his ailing and struggling midfield. And the 37-year-old's sloppy cameo against Manchester City in the FA Cup third round on Sunday may well become his final ‘testimonial' match for United!

It has become a trend for Barclays Premier League clubs to take advantage of short-term services of former Premier League players, with Aston Villa set to follow suit with the loan signing of Robbie Keane.

One championship contender that seem unlikely to bring in any players on loan, Manchester City, can take heart from their 3-2 defeat to United in the FA Cup as they resume their title charge away to Wigan on Monday.

Roberto Mancini's men were in danger of tasting their own medicine (City's 6-1 win at Old Trafford) but did well to battle from 3-0 down at half-time and come away with a respectable narrow defeat against their bitter rivals.

The Citizens can take positives from their valiant comeback and another silver lining is that they have one less distraction in their quest for the Barclays Premier League title. But trust me, Mancini will be disappointed to have one less trophy to fight for this season.

Over at Anfield, the limelight is unfortunately on the ongoing racism row engulfing Liverpool, with the latest one coming from their FA Cup tie against Oldham where visiting defender Tom Adeyemi was allegedly abused by the home crowd.

But Kenny Dalglish's men cannot afford to let the off-field saga distract them from the task at hand as they face a tough visit from Stoke City. If the ‘home sick' Reds are to keep their top-four hopes alive on Saturday, they need to improve on their home form - especially against a mid-table side like Stoke.

In that context, the return of Steven Gerrard could not have come at a better time for them. The 31-year-old has now scored twice (both from the spot) in his last two starts against Oldham and City and could be the difference between a Champions League or a Europa League spot next season.

Steve McMahon was speaking to ESPNSTAR.com's Daniel Teo.

Steve McMahon's Predictions

Saturday’s Fixtures

Liverpool vs Stoke

HT: 1-0, FT: 2-0

Although Stoke recorded a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium last time both sides met in the league back in September, Kenny Dalglish’s men absolutely dominated that game and were left to lament their profligacy in front of goal.

While the Potters will always be a threat from set pieces, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel can been impressive in the air all season, and with the Reds boosted by the return of talismanic captain Steven Gerrard, a comfortable victory is on the cards for Liverpool.

Chelsea vs Sunderland

HT: 1-0, FT: 2-1

Man United vs Bolton

HT: 1-0, FT: 3-0

West Brom vs Norwich

HT: 1-0, FT: 2-1

Aston Villa vs Everton

HT: 0-0, FT: 1-0

Blackburn vs Fulham

HT: 1-0, FT: 1-1

Tottenham vs Wolves

HT: 2-0, FT: 3-0

Sunday’s Fixtures

Newcastle vs QPR

HT: 1-1, FT: 1-1

Swansea vs Arsenal

HT: 0-1, FT: 0-2

Monday’s Fixtures

Wigan vs Man City

HT: 0-1, FT: 0-3

Following two straight defeats at home in the FA Cup and Carling Cup, Roberto Mancini will be eager for his side to get back to winning ways on Monday, and he will be delighted to be up against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan.

After an impressive run which saw them lose just one in six league matches, the Latics are back in trouble after losing two of their last three, conceding eleven goals in those games and scoring just three. Perhaps more importantly for Mancini, Martinez’s penchant for free-flowing football will leave plenty of gaps all over the park, which will present the Citizens with plenty of opportunities to hurt their hosts on the scoreboard.



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