Paul Scholes reinvention as a hard-tackling man of opinions continues apace. In his latest column over at the Independent, the sweet-passing clean-striking ankle-bothering former midfielder reveals that he is less than confident about Manchester United's prospects for the immediate future:
I am scared for United. Genuinely scared that they could go into the wilderness in the same way that Liverpool did in the 1990s. I realise that it is just 15 months since United won the league for the 20th time in the club's history. I know that it is still the most commercially successful club in the country. It has the biggest stadium in the Premier League, and the biggest match-day revenue. But ultimately all a club's success and standing are built on the foundations of what happens on the pitch.
And his solution? To spend some money. Lots and lots and lots of lovely money, on "Five proper players who can hit the ground running and turn the situation around". Four of those players, Ángel Di María, Xabi Alonso, Raphaël Varane and Sami Khedira are currently hanging around at Real Madrid, while the fifth, Mats Hummels, is attached to Borussia Dortmund.
It would be one very big cheque for Real Madrid, given that four of them would come from that club. It would be hard to land them all.
That stands as perhaps the understatement of the century.
It's difficult to know what to make of the column as a whole. On the one hand, it's certainly refreshing to see an ex-player unafraid to criticise the club; compare and contrast this with Gary Neville's risible, ultra-loyalist showing last season. But on the other, 'United are crap and here's my shopping list' isn't exactly particularly mindblowing. Mentions of the Glazers: zero. Mentions of Ed Woodward: zero. Mentions of Alex Ferguson: one, approving, despite his also saying the following:
I suppose I should have realised that the very fact I was still playing for United at 38 years old was a sign that there was not enough pressure on us senior players from those coming into the side.
Indeed, the senior United figure who comes in for most criticism is Louis van Gaal -- this 3-5-2 really doesn't press Scholes buttons -- despite the Dutchman having been at the club for less than two months and despite that formation being clearly rooted in precisely the same issues that Scholes is identifying.
All in all, it's a strange piece. And tBB has to disagree about Xabi Alonso. It's not that he's ex-Liverpool; it's that he's completely shot.