Ferdinand salutes Scholes and Henry
Rio Ferdinand is delighted two of his top five all-time Premier League players are treading the boards on the biggest stage once more. After making his mark on a second debut for Arsenal, Thierry Henry was followed on to the scoring chart by Paul Scholes on Saturday, when the veteran midfielder set Manchester United on their way to victory over Bolton Wanderers.
The Gunners and the Red Devils will square off at the Emirates on Sunday, and Sir Alex Ferguson's men know they cannot afford to slip any further behind title favourites Manchester City. The build-up is bound to include memories of great deeds from Henry and Scholes, and Ferdinand is aware there are plenty.
"It is great to see two of the best players come back," said the veteran defender. "If I was going to name a top five list of players to have played in the Premier League, Scholes and Henry would be in there.
"It's fantastic for Arsenal, of course, just as it is for us to have Scholes back. Hopefully he's going to help us get over the line and win another couple of trophies."
Sir Alex Ferguson reintroduced Scholes to his squad for the FA Cup tie against City without informing any of his playing staff. Ferdinand did try to unearth the information, but, typically, the former England playmaker was not forthcoming with any details.
"I spoke to Scholesy a few weeks beforehand and asked him if he was coming back but he doesn't give anything away," he said. "When he met up with the squad the day before the City game, I asked him again if he was in the squad but he said he was coming to watch as part of the staff. I had an inkling he might be back though because he trained the day before with us, but it wasn't until the kit man told me before the game that he had brought his gear that I knew for certain."
Scholes' return has been greeted with mixed feelings, with some arguing it is a regressive step for a club trying to win a record 20th title. The 37-year-old's two performances so far have been patchy, although he retains a calmness in possession that Ferdinand does not feel many could exude after six months out of the game.
"There are only a handful of players on the planet who could do it," said Ferdinand. "Iniesta, Xavi, Messi. They are the type of players who can come in at any time and look as though they could just play football at the drop of a hat at the top level. The game is so natural to them."
And having spent so long as a team-mate of Scholes, Ferdinand is acutely aware of the spin-offs that will benefit the younger members of Ferguson's squad.
"It's fantastic for the club and the team," he said. "More importantly, for the young players learning their trade - especially our midfielders - they can see a top player at work.
"His experience is invaluable, as well as his calmness on the pitch and his know-how of the game. When you've got wingers like ours and forwards who want to get in behind the defenders and attack teams, a player like him who can put the ball on a sixpence is great."
Ferdinand, who had been an injury doubt for the trip to Arsenal, also declared that he will be at Ferguson's disposal for the game.