Scholes takes scalpel to United’s frailties
Discreet and reclusive Old Trafford favourite sticks the boot into mediocre performance
Paul Scholes: Marouane Fellaini? “You’d expect better to be honest.” Last night’s starting 11? “Toothless.” Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images
Football fans everywhere love a good conspiracy theory, so here are the beginnings of one over which to chew (warning: may be half-baked).
The reclusive Paul Scholes, a good friend of Ryan Giggs who appears to have been marginalised as player and coach by David Moyes, makes a surprise appearance on Sky Sports to help analyse a Manchester derby. With the kind of ruthless no-frills precision that marked out his passing as a player, he takes a scalpel to his former team’s many shortcomings under the post-Ferguson regime: lack of pace and penetration, questionable selections, underperforming big-name purchases, a manager that still doesn’t know his best side.
In mitigation, Scholes cites extenuating circumstances and says the club has “got to stand by” Moyes, but the tacit criticism is clear. Another grenade sent rolling into a dressing room rumoured to be approaching the brink of mutiny, perfectly weighted by one of United’s respected players, not only of recent years but all time.
Considering how reluctantly and infrequently Scholes airs his views in public, it’s only natural to question the timing of Tuesday night’s TV appearance and headline-making comments. Marouane Fellaini? “You’d expect better to be honest”. Last night’s starting 11? “Toothless”. Juan Mata? “Quality . . . in his right position.” Cited in Alex Ferguson’s latest autobiography as “a man of excellent opinions”, Scholes was always going to cause a stir.
Scholes’ most high-profile recent and equally revelatory screen excursion was in the excellent Class of ’92 documentary last year, alongside Gary and Phil Neville, and other club stalwarts who learned at Sir Alex Ferguson’s knee. Now a respected pundit and Manchester United coach respectively, some insight into the two brothers’ private, possibly contrasting ruminations on Tuesday night’s man of the match performance from their good friend and former team-mate would be interesting to glean.
Of course there is every chance that the famously publicity-shy Scholes simply fancied an evening of green room hospitality along with his fellow analyst Graeme Souness.