Golden oldies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2007, 12:00am

The power and pace of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney have been central to United's success, but those young stars have been ably supported by the skill, guile and experience of United's thirtysomethings.

The return of Paul Scholes (pictured), at the age of 32, was like a new signing for Sir Alex Ferguson this season. Prior to the start of the league campaign, Scholes had played only 45 minutes in 2006 but this season he has started 29 Premiership games, scoring six times. The pick of his goals was the thumping volley in the 3-0 win at Villa Park in December but others have been more crucial - the equaliser that started United's comeback in the 4-1 win over Blackburn during the nervous run-in, the brace that secured a 2-2 draw at Newcastle, and the opener in the 2-0 home win over Liverpool. His sublime chip to set up Rooney in the Champions League home win against AC Milan was yet more evidence of Scholes' enduring class.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 34, also returned from a lengthy lay-off to make an important contribution. The Norwegian has scored seven goals in 18 appearances, despite starting only eight times, and his scoring rate (a goal every 131 minutes on the pitch) is the best in the Premiership among players who have started at least one game.

Ryan Giggs - another veteran of the 1999 treble-winning squad - has scored only four league goals but nine assists emphasise his continued importance. Like Scholes, Giggs, 33, was recognised by his fellow players with a place on the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award. Henrik Larsson, 35, was an inspired two-month loan signing. The Swede made only seven Premiership appearances, but his arrival in January lifted spirits during a crucial phase. United won six out of seven in the league when Larsson played (the only defeat, 2-1 at Arsenal, came after Larsson had left the pitch with United in front).