The return of the prodigal son

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THE magic of the FA Cup has finally returned. Following years of dull finals and clubs not taking the tournament seriously, the 2012 FA Cup finally got started with a bang. Of course the stand out tie of the round was the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

City fans will moan and complain about the officiating and how they missed the Toure brothers, but Sir Alex Ferguson will certainly have enjoyed his glass of wine after the game. A rip roaring first half saw United go 3-0 but then they seemed to relax and found themselves holding on at the end. The sending off was debatable but players have got to learn that you cannot slide into challenges with two feet or show your studs.

Not only did the game have red card drama, stunning goals and end to end action but we also saw the return of the ‘ginger genius’ that is Paul Scholes. On Saturday, the club had announced that Scholes was returning from retirement to help United boost numbers in an injury hit midfield. However, not too many United fans would have thought Scholes would have played any part in the derby match.

Yes United may have come out on top but the return of Scholes is merely papering over the cracks. A truly stunning footballer on his day, Scholes is long past his exquisite best.

In my opinion it shows the lack of trust Ferguson has in some of his midfielders like Park, Gibson and Anderson. It will hardly inspire youngsters such as Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba to stay on at the club, if the manager prefers to plead for the return of a veteran midfielder ahead of their youthful exuberance.

One so called football expert stated that it would not surprise him if Scholes forced his way into the England setup for Euro 2012. Utter nonsense. Scholes is here to help Ferguson through a difficult spell and try and bring back some much needed stability and experience to the midfield.

There is just the small matter of a tie at Anfield in the next round for Scholes and his teammates.

Elsewhere, crazy Paolo di Canio led Swindon Town to victory over EPL side Wigan Athletic. I caught the highlights of the game and it was clear to me that Swindon deserved their win. Midfielder Matt Ritchie looked as if he could play in the Premier League every week. He has a fantastic array of passing and a great left foot. Di Canio has them playing some great football and neither Leicester or Notts Forest will look forward to their fourth round tie.

There were near misses for both QPR and Bolton as they both escaped a giant-killing. I thought both MK Dons and Macclesfield thoroughly deserved to go through. Both EPL sides equalised in the latter stages of their respective ties and will be relieved to have their name in the hat for the next round.

However, Neil Warnock won’t have a chance to defeat MK Dons at Loftus Road as chairman Tony Fernandes removed the former Sheffield United from his role.

QPR have been struggling recently but it seems a harsh decision to get rid of the controversial manager. Early favourite for the role is former Fulham manager Mark Hughes. It is certainly not the most talented of squads in the league and a few January signings may be needed to keep them in the top flight.

Finally, all the best to new Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill. It would be fair to say that I was certainly not Nigel Worthingtons biggest fan and I feel Michael O’Neill has already made an excellent start. He is prepared to do as much work as he can to find players both over the water and help develop young talent at home. It is a huge job for the former Shamrock Rovers man but he seems to be a man who is not afraid of a challenge.