“I say what I believe,” explains Paul Scholes over a morning coffee in Manchester a few days after some of his honest and forthright Manchester United comments on television have made headlines. “I don’t make anything up and I’m not very good at hiding how I feel.
“If people ask me something I’ll give my view, whether it’s right or wrong. I’m just a frustrated United fan, a father of a son who goes home and away watching the team. My lad is a proper United fan, a lunatic who wants to go everywhere to follow his team on a bus. I try to talk to him about some of the games but he can’t remember all of them — which at this point is probably not a bad thing. They make me laugh, the lads he goes with. When the cup draws are made, they want the furthest away game possible so that their day out lasts longer. As a player, you think the opposite.
“As a fan and a local lad, I was always around the culture of fans going to games. Going to Old Trafford felt like a big mission but we went to the odd games. One of my first games was with my dad and we went to a game against Chelsea and it kicked off between rival fans outside the ground. I s— myself and my dad grabbed hold of me and we sprinted off. I lost my shoe.”
And United has been through big changes since you stopped playing. How do you feel about the present United team?
I hate going back and saying ‘when we played, we did this and we did that’ but I look at the current squad of players and I don’t think there’s a lack of quality there. I do think they miss a couple of real class players that other top teams seem to have.
A link player between the midfield and the forwards.
A player like Luka Modric?
Yes, a link player and also a controlling midfield player. They’re different. The link player must have the quality to pass and create.
Like you did?
I did it a bit. I’m thinking more of a [Kevin] De Bruyne, [Eden] Hazard or David Silva. We have Jesse [Lingard] who, on his day, can be that type of player, but you never really know what his best position is. Juan Mata has those type of qualities but the manager plays him wide on the right-hand side and he’s never going to have the legs to play that position. I’ve been there, being put out wide, and you hate it. You want to get into the middle of the pitch where things are happening and pace isn’t as vital.
The rest of the United team is ok. [Anthony] Martial and [Marcus] Rashford, two really talented players, they need to develop their confidence and then… it scares me that these really talented players will be sold and be brilliant for another club. I could see that happening with Martial.
What do you think is Martial’s best position?
On the left, but it’s difficult for him and Rashford to find some confidence because they come in for a game, they might not have the best game and then they’re out for three or four matches. If the team don’t play well then they’re brought back in for an hour, then left out. You never get consistency or a run of performances. That’s frustrating.
What about Alexis Sanchez?
I know he has qualities and has been a good player but I never saw him as a United player. I saw him as a bit selfish, someone who played for himself sometimes. I didn’t think he was a player that we needed, especially for that type of money. How would we be able to get rid of him now when he earns those wages? The signing felt like it happened just to stop Man City signing him.
It feels like every player who comes into the team struggles. I feel like we could sign Lionel Messi at the moment and he’d struggle in this team.
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