08/01/2012 10:16 GMT | Updated 08/01/2012 11:16 GMT

Scholes Return: Veteran Midfielder Makes Surprise Appearance For Manchester United In FA Cup

Veteran footballer Paul Scholes, who retired from the professional game in the summer after a 17-year career with Manchester United, has made a surprise return to the Old Trafford Club, having re-registered for the rest of the season.

The midfield, who made 466 appearances for United, as well as winning 66 caps for England, was registered among the substitutes for Sunday's FA Cup third round tie against Manchester City, coming on in the second half.

With Manchester United 3-1 ahead, the diminutive play-maker, once described by Thierry Henry as "the best player in the Premiership" returned to action, his every touch cheered by the United fans who had made the short trip across the city to the Etihad stadium. The game finished 3-2 to United, following an early sending off for Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany.

The return of Scholes, 37, follows that of Henry, 34, who recently re-signed for Arsenal on a two-month loan spell from the MLS team New York Red Bulls. During a glittering career, Scholes won every club honour, including 10 Premier League titles and three FA Cup winners' medals. He also won the Champions League in 1999 and 2008.

The midfielder has spent the past six months helping to coach the United reserve team and while his return may be welcomed by the terraces, Alex Ferguson's willingness to bring back a player in his late thirties has been criticised by some commentators as a sign of the team's desperation, albeit one borne out of a severe injury crisis.

Regardless of how Scholes second United career pans out, his quality as one of the best players of his generation is without doubt. In a 2011 interview, Barcelona midfielder Xavi called Scholes a role model, adding "he's the best central midfielder I've seen in the last 15, 20 years. He's spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he's strong, he doesn't lose the ball, vision. If he'd been Spanish he might have been rated more highly. Players love him."

French midfielder Zinedine Zidane also held the Salford-born player in high regard, saying not playing with Scholes was one of the biggest regrets of his career.