He might be a club legend, but Paul Scholes isn’t so welcome around Old Trafford anymore.
Of course, the Manchester United support would embrace him with open arms, such are his achievements for the club, but so vociferous has the former midfielder been in his criticism of current players and staff it’s unlikely an invitation will be extended any time soon.
Scholes isn’t the only United great to have laid into the current Man Utd crop, with Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and a few others also weighing in on what has happened at the club in the post Sir Alex Ferguson years.
In fact, the United pundits circuit has become something of an industry in its own right of late. Not a week goes by without someone with a history at the club targeting a player, a manager or a director.
This week, it was Romelu Lukaku. Fresh from scoring his 43rd goal for Belgium, making him the top scorer in the country’s history, Scholes made the point that Man Utd will never win the league with Lukaku leading the line.
“I don’t think his play outside of the box is good enough,” he said in a recent interview.
“I’m not sure if he works hard enough but he’s still a young man who has done well and scored a lot of goals. He’s quick and strong, but Lukaku is one of many United players who look like they’re short of confidence.”
Paul Pogba is another who has been consistently dug out by Scholes.
“Where’s the Paul Pogba we saw at Juventus?” he cried in a rant towards the end of last year. Juts this week Scholes aimed another barb at the Frenchman, claiming he is prone to “switching off” and plays “like it’s all about him.”
It’s little wonder then that, according to reports, Man Utd’s players are unhappy with the way they are being lambasted by figures who not so long ago were in their position.
So vexed are the likes of Lukaku and Pogba by the criticism that has directed their way, they have now taken to sharing clips among themselves of United legends, like Ferdinand, Neville and Scholes, making mistakes back when they were players.
All this just adds to the sense of malaise that currently exists around Old Trafford.
Of course, former players are entitled to their views. With their playing careers over, they are now employed to provide an opinion and that’s what the likes of Ferdinand, Neville and Scholes have done on The Red Devils. Technically, they have done nothing wrong.
However, former players like these three are keen to stress their allegiances, crossing the line between pundit and ambassador.
Neville and Scholes, for instance, own a stake, along with Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, in ‘Hotel Football’ directly across the road from Old Trafford.
The property’s success is indirectly linked to the success of United as a club, and therefore it’s only natural that they feel somewhat invested in what is happening on the other side of the street at the moment.
Jose Mourinho himself has called United’s former players turned pundits “obsessed,” although it could be argued that the Portuguese has a warped view of what role former players should be playing.
After all, during his time at Chelsea Mourinho effectively argued that the club needed more pundits to fight their corner on TV.
This is a view held by many across the Premier League, with Manchester City reported to be pushing former players into punditry for this very reason, but it doesn’t really do much justice to the pundits trade.
The best ones are those who can separate themselves from past allegiances, and in a sense by criticising Man Utd’s current crop so vehemently the likes of Ferdinand, Neville and Scholes are failing to do this.
It’s because it matters so much to them that there is a problem.