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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Fergie hails pass master Scholes

Sir Alex Ferguson has rejected the suggestion that Paul Scholes' Manchester United return is a step backwards.

• Everton confirm Gibson deal

The United manager sprang a major surprise when he confirmed Scholes had come out of retirement ahead of the FA Cup tie at Manchester City last Sunday. Ferguson had not even told his players, so determined was he for the news not to leak out prematurely.

Yet, once the shock had subsided, many began to question why United needed the services of a 37-year-old and today's departure of Darron Gibson to Everton has brought yet more claims that books are being balanced at Old Trafford.

"There were no negatives as far as I was concerned,'' Ferguson said. "One or two people have been negative. They're making out it's been a 'regressive step' for Manchester United.

"How can it be regressive? You're getting a player for nothing who's been part of the club for 20-odd years. He's not going to play every game but in terms of composure and passing ability, is there a better player going around? Definitely not.''

Once the decision was made, Ferguson's biggest dilemma was ensuring the news did not leak out, not even inside his own dressing room.

"I don't know how we managed it,'' he said. "We registered him on the Friday, and thought somehow it would get out. But we didn't let any of the players know simply because of the impact. value.

"We were going away from home in a very difficult FA Cup tie against City. We had 5,000 fans at that end of the ground and as soon as they knew his name was on the team sheet they were fantastic, there was a great response.''

Ferguson has always reflected on the fact Scholes is one of the easiest players he has ever had to manage. The demands are getting harder though as star names become wealthier and surrounded by an increasing number of agents and assistants to cater for their every whim.

"What you have to do is (ensure your players) understand how fragile that celebrity status can be,'' said Ferguson. "One minute you're a star, the next minute you're not.

"Dealing with success is a bit more difficult today, because of television and the headlines they can get. So you do a lot of work with them to keep their feet on the ground.

"I say to them all the time: 'Go back to your mother the same person you were when you arrived. That's important, because I'm sure your mother doesn't like to see you change'. And we don't like to see them change either.''

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