During the late 1990's and throughout most of the 2000's there was, and still is, a staple diet of ex-Liverpool pundits on TV. Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson and latterly Graeme Souness, Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp are all charged with analysing the Premier League. For probably four of the five, they must have found the job extremely difficult at times. Being so used to success on the pitch, to have to critique sets of players that don't come close to the standards they set must have been tough to swallow.
Hansen, Lawrenson and Souness won the lot at Anfield. Since they hung up their boots the team they played for have enjoyed only sporadic success in cup competitions, but over the marathon of a league season have fallen short every year since 1990. Sometimes woefully short. As pundits, they don't shirk their responsibility, and have to call it as they see it when 'their' club disappoint in a particular game or over a season. They have got used to doing it, in the same way they got used to winning trophies.
Carragher also won a great deal in his time at Anfield, although the league title eluded him. He also has the respect of most armchair fans, because of the type of player he was and the partnership he formed with Gary Neville on the TV screens. Being huge rivals as players, they had good chemistry and their banter was as entertaining as their analysis.
Redknapp doesn't have the same authority
Redknapp has also become a respected media figure, but there is a difference in listening to him and the others in so much that he never won a league title let alone multiple, but more so his association with the 'Spice Boys'. He probably at one time or another was criticised by his peers. He also has a tendency to show bias to any of his former teams, either with gushing praise or by making excuses. The same goes for any number of his Dad's former clubs, except he sticks the boot in when it suits in those cases.
So when Souness and co. give a withering appraisal of a poor Liverpool performance it no doubt resonates a lot more with the fans than when Redknapp does. Redknapp may well have a winners mentality, but you will never know because the group of players he played with never delivered. You can be sure that the others did, and that what they say comes from the experience of getting over the line.
Hansen has retired, but the others are still giving their opinions every week and with Liverpool still a country mile away from a league title will still be saying the things that the fans are thinking, but don't want to hear. Not good enough. So the status quo remains for Liverpool fans, but the TV studios are now being filled with more serial winners from down the East Lancs road, and one in particular is causing more waves than any of the others ever did.
Scholes is making up for lost time
"I’m star-struck when I see Paul Scholes because you never see him. On the pitch you can’t catch him. Off the pitch he disappears."
That quote was attributed to Luis Figo. He is not alone in talking about Paul Scholes and waxing lyrical. You can find quotes from all the greats and at one time or another they had something flattering to say about the 'Ginger Prince'. Figo's quote sums him up perfectly as Paul Scholes, the footballer. Massive on the pitch, a ghost off it. You can go back throughout his long playing career and his interviews are about as rare as his misplaced passes.
Before the Manchester Derby in March 2014 at Old Trafford, he appeared on Sky Sports as a guest. As it turned out, for United fans it was probably a bigger highlight watching Scholes speak than the game itself. Honest and insightful, he didn't pull any punches. He said the signings of Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata had fallen short of expectations. On another topic, he said Jack Wilshire had not progressed as a player, to which the Arsenal took the hump and called Scholes directly.
It is impossible to sugar coat a 3-0 home defeat in a Derby, especially with an inept performance. Scholes didn't, and sensing that the quiet man of football had something to say, he ended up being signed up for two TV companies as a panelist in the Premier League for BT Sport and the Champions League for ITV. As a result, it is no longer hard to find a Scholes quote, it is hard to avoid them.
Scholes is not the only former United pundit
As mentioned, Scholes' former team mate Gary Neville also went down the TV route after retirement. He was probably the most respected pundit of the lot, with his analysis so detailed and his views hard hitting. He left his comfortable role to take an extremely hot seat in La Liga with Valencia and he may now be regretting his decision. His experience and knowledge are not being transferred onto the pitch, and he is proving that the pressure of management is a long way away from the safety of a TV studio.
Scholes is joined on BT Sports by Owen Hargreaves and Rio Ferdinand. Whilst Hargreaves can't be considered an Old Trafford legend, he won all the top trophies during his time with Bayern Munich and United. His opinions are not as outspoken as Scholes, but he knows what he is talking about. Ferdinand can be quite critical about a whole manner of things, not just the performances, and again as someone who has been part of not just winning teams, but great teams, his opinions are hugely respected.
Peter Schmeichel pulls no punches when he does the odd guest appearance. He is an ambassador at United, so he possibly doesn't give both barrels, but he normally compares situations to those he faced under Sir Alex Ferguson and of course puts the current regime in a dim light.
Is Keane honest or bitter?
The most scathing pundit of them all is someone who once vowed never to go down that road, and it was Scholes' partner in crime Roy Keane. Keane, like Neville, has tried his hand at management and not really made a success of things. As Martin O'Neill's assistant with the Republic of Ireland, he played an integral part in their qualification to the Euro '16 finals, and management may be for Keane again in the future.
He is still on TV though and he is acerbic as he was when his outburst cost him his Old Trafford career. Keane is every bit as respected as Scholes, but because of his nasty streak you sometimes wonder if there is some bitterness in his words and assessments. When it comes to United these days, any criticism no matter how harsh it may seem, is normally fully justified.
It is Scholes, though, who makes the headlines these days. His damning assessment of United make great copy. Everything he says is reported and it has gotten to the point that his views have been irking the manager, Louis van Gaal, for some time now. Scholes' comments have been thrown as questions to van Gaal during press conferences, and naturally van Gaal has not taken kindly to them.
The spat with van Gaal hasn't bothered Scholes in the slightest. He seems confident in front of the cameras and doesn't seem concerned about the affect his comments have. The fans are with Scholes, it is almost as though he is in tune with them. Scholes, like the fans, can say what he wants within reason. He is paid handsomely to do that. However, despite it not being his fault that he has to say such negative things, it maybe that it is becoming a bit of a tired approach.
Is Scholes saying too much?
After the performance at Anfield, it was impossible to take any positives. It was such an abject display that anything other than criticism would have brought derision. However, it seems that he is now looking for things to criticise. After the West Ham cup game his opinion on Dimitri Payet's free kick was that David De Gea should have saved it. Now as brilliant as De Gea is, and that may be where Scholes is coming from, there was no need for criticism regarding that moment of beauty.
It is almost as if he is now programmed for criticism. There is such a low around the club right now, though that is not Scholes' fault. The players and management have to accept every bit of negativity that comes their way. However, Scholes views do have an impact. Ryan Giggs is also in the eye of the storm, and whilst Scholes has stopped short of attacking Giggs, his constant barbs will not have helped his position.
There is a bit of a divide forming amongst fans regarding Giggs. Some are tarring him with the van Gaal brush, and whilst that is a bit ludicrous, it is life. Guilty by association. Scholes was happy to help Giggs in his temporary time in charge, so it is clear he is supportive of his former team mate and his vision. Giggs, like Neville, is in a difficult moment right now and whilst Scholes is only doing his job he may well be undermining his friend to the point of no return.
The quiet man no longer, he may be enjoying his job. He is undoubtedly not enjoying what he is seeing though. When all said and done, the best solution all round and the easiest way to get Scholes to say some nice things about the team, is to actually put in some performances on the pitch. It's not really too much to ask.