Manchester United legend Paul Scholes made a shock return to English soccer Sunday as the Red Devils knocked archrival and defending champion Manchester City out of the FA Cup with a dramatic 3-2 away win.

The 37-year-old midfielder's stunning comeback was announced only an hour before kick-off at the Eithad Stadium, but soon was overshadowed by the events on the field.

Wayne Rooney's early header put United in front before City defender Vincent Kompany was sent off for what referee Chris Foy controversially decreed to be a dangerous two-footed challenge on Nani.

United took full advantage, with Danny Welbeck's volley and a Rooney penalty giving Sir Alex Ferguson's team a 3-0 lead at half-time.

But City quickly hit back in the second half with a free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov before Sergio Aguero set up hopes of a dramatic comeback with a second goal on 65 minutes.

The Argentinian struck following an error from the returning Scholes, who gave the ball away for James Milner to cross barely five minutes after arriving as a substitute.

But the veteran midfielder was not made to pay as he and his old teammates held on to celebrate a big win against Roberto Mancini's men, watched in the stands by fellow United great David Beckham and two of his sons.

Scholes, who retired at the end of last season, will remain with the squad until the end of the season with the English Premier League (EPL) giant facing an injury crisis amid a dreadful run of league form.

Ferguson hailed the return of the old maestro as "fantastic," adding, "I always felt that he had another season in him."

After a glittering career, Scholes hung up his boots last summer to take a coaching role with United's reserve team. But Sunday's surprise cameo became his 677th appearance for the club.

"I've been pretty clear since I stopped playing that I miss it," Scholes told the club's website before the game. "I'm delighted the manager feels I can still make a contribution to the team and I'm looking forward to playing my part in trying to bring more success to this great club."

United's victory Sunday halted a run of back-to-back league defeats, while ending its neighbor's hopes of retaining English soccer's most-prized domestic cup.

It also marked a distinct improvement from the last time the teams met in the league, when City destroyed United 6-1 at Old Trafford in October. City remains on top in the EPL, though, with a three-point advantage over United.