Time for an edict to force Paul Scholes into a big puffy jacket
TWO things need to happen in football immediately.
Okay, so I am a couple of weeks too late to put my manifesto before the Fifa faithful, so I’m appealing to Gianni Infantino to declare an edict that Paul Scholes should be forced to manage a football team. Doesn’t matter which one, just get the ginger genius in a big puffy jacket asap.
The next thing that needs to happen is that Scholesy agrees to be the subject of a fly-on-the-wall style documentary. Manchester United fans often sing that ‘Gary Neville is a red’, well on Thursday night, on BT Sport Paul Scholes was [italics] red, and then a darker shade of red, and then purple.
In the words of the former flame-haired midfield maestro (and occasionally poorly-timed enforcer), United were “appalling” , “a shambles”. A heady cocktail of disbelief, anger and frustration were etched across Scholes’s face as he delivered his damning tirade. It was enough to have him reaching for the inhaler.
A club legend, the former quiet man of football couldn’t stop now. Scholes the pundit is more than making up for Scholes the reluctant post-match interviewee. And you get the impression it wasn’t just the current United squad he was directing his ire at, but a whole generation of footballers who came up after his heyday.
“What I don’t want to see is players going on Twitter saying how sorry they are. Get off social media and just play,” he demanded.
The awkward silence was followed by the frantic keystrokes of Juan Mata as he rapidly deleted this week’s blog, crammed full of contrition and hugs. But an irritable Scholesy in the studio is no good - let’s see him in the dressing room, grabbing iPhones and Samsung Galaxies and smashing them against the wall. Sure you’ll get the indifferent shrug of a millionaire footballer who doesn’t have to worry about exceeding his data usage for the month, but they’ll get the picture.
It wasn’t just Scholes who was lamenting the demise of the Old Trafford club. Rio Ferdinand started off diplomatic, but finally got carried along in that wave of antagonism his former team-mate had started. There was “a lack of fight, a lack urgency and a massive improvement needed” said Rio before rattling off a list of players Louis van Gaal has discarded. Steve McManaman hid his schadenfreude well, another arch-diplomat but whose withering assessment of United was no less scathing.
It had all started so well, with the panel reminiscing before the match about the goals they’d scored, or in Macca’s case assisted in, against the old enemy. They all took it in turns to remind us how big this match was. The biggest game in the biggest rivalry between the biggest clubs – Rio confessed that it took a night out in Liverpool for him as a fledgling United player to realise just how big it was.
Once the action got under way pundits Michael Owen and Trevor Francis were in no doubt how big, but, in a bout of casual xenophobia, worried that the Spanish referee just wouldn’t get it. Yeah, because there’s no big football rivalries in Spain, you know..... What’s that you say? A pig’s head? Blimey.
The adenoidal former Forest man reckoned the foreign ref would interpret the rules differently (what like that rather lax PE teacher did with young Webb-Ellis?) and when Jordan Henderson was booked for a high tackle early doors, wee MO muse that “You can’t get away with that with a foreign referee.” It’s stud ups all the way every week in the Premier League, senor.
A grim night for fans of United, party time for Jurgen Klopp, but bobby-turned-ref-turned-video analysts of controversial decisions, Howard Webb gave Red Devils’ fans a sliver of hope when he highlighted an off-the-ball elbow by mic stand and occasional footballer Marouane Fellaini, raising the prospect of him missing the second leg.
The beginnings of what almost looked like something resembling the start of a smile almost began to break out on Scholesy’s face. Almost.