Saturday 20 January 2018

'It is a great chance for them' - Paul Scholes turns from Man United's arch critic to chief optimist

Paul Scholes and Jose Mourinho
Paul Scholes and Jose Mourinho
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has been one of the more outspoken critics of his former club in recent years, but he has become something of a cheerleader for Jose Mourinho in his first season as as Old Trafford chief.

Louis van Gaal was frustrated by persistent sniping from Scholes during his turbulent two-years as United manager, yet the midfielder who won 11 Premier League titles with the club has changed his tune this season.

Now Scholes has offered this upbeat prediction for the final weeks of this season to Omnisport, as he backed Mourinho to secure his second trophy of the season by adding the Europa League crown to the EFL Cup win from last month.

“It is a great chance for them,” said Old Trafford legend Scholes, as he looked forward to a Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht.

“They are obviously the biggest club left in the competition. They are favourites and rightly so.

“If they perform anything like (they can) they have got a great chance of winning. I think Lyon are maybe the obvious contenders to United. But, apart from that, I don’t see too many problems for them in that competition.”

Scholes also predicted United would secure a top four finish in the Premier League, even though they have tough games against Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham still to on their agenda this season.

“I expect them to finish fourth,” stated Scholes. “They have been on a fantastic run, without making much progress in the league.

“You have to say, the quality in the Premier League is back to where it should be. There are probably five teams fighting for that top four. There is a big period now, this will define how good the season has been (for United).

“Mourinho will be given loads of time, I think. He’s had to consolidate after a difficult couple of years. He’s managed to do that, and he’ll want to kick on now.

“He won’t be happy with finishing fourth or fifth in the league. He’ll want to be up there trying to win the league.

“I believe in the next couple of years he’ll be desperate to do that.”

Scholes went on to defend United’s record signing Paul Pogba after fresh criticism in recent weeks.

“I think he’s done well. I know he’s had a little bit of criticism, but from what I’ve seen...he’s a brave young player,” added Scholes.

“He’s always willing to take the ball. He’ll always try stuff, he’ll try passes, he’ll try shots on goal.

“I think he’s had a good first season, settling back into England. It’s not always easy, but I think he’s done alright, and he can only improve.”

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