Rio Ferdinand says the return of Paul Scholes has been key in Manchester United's push for a 20th league title and wants the 37-year-old to play on past the summer.
Scholes shocked everyone when he came out of retirement on the day the Reds last travelled to City - for an FA Cup third round tie in January - and now, ahead of a match widely agreed to be the most important derby of all time, Ferdinand has heaped praise on the pass master.
"There are a number of reasons why we’ve done well since the turn of the year," he told United's official matchday programme, United Review. "There’s no doubt one of them is Paul Scholes. Would we have been in the same position [without him]? It’s impossible to say. It’s great to have him back, though.
"It’s not just the quality of his football that impresses me but the way he’s adapted physically. He was out of the game for months and yet he’s come straight back into top-level football and he’s hardly looked out of place. At this stage of his career, that’s phenomenal."
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed last weekend he has not spoken with Scholes about the possibility of continuing into the 2012/13 season, for fear of clouding the midfielder's mind with issues that are secondary to the team's current focus of winning the league.
"I'm not going to ask him until the end of the season," Sir Alex said. "I don't want to put anything in his mind at all.
"It was a break for us to get Paul back. The form he’s showing now is as good as it’s ever been.
“He brings a calmness to the game and he can dictate the tempo of matches for us. He’s been doing that since he’s come back. He’s probably in better form than he was last season, because when he made his decision to retire it would have been in his mind that it was his last season and maybe it did affect him."
Ferdinand, however, was vocal in his desire to see Scholes pull on the United shirt for a 19th campaign.