'You can't get away with bulls****ing people' - Paul Scholes on Mourinho, Man United and desire to manage
Saturday afternoons are the toughest for Paul Scholes, the time when the void in his life feels most pronounced, when his longing to return to football - and that sense of emptiness without it - feels most acute.
"It's just the frustration of not being involved," the former Manchester United and England midfielder says. "Saturday afternoon is the hardest thing. I can go out and watch games, but I'm constantly on my phone looking at results, 'What score is this? What score is that'. You have no real involvement, but you're obsessed with it. I want that feeling back again of working towards something through the week, the end game on a Saturday."
The image of one of the greatest English players of his generation rattling around the house at a perennial loose end, craving the direction, and fulfilment that a trophy-laden, near 20-year career with United brought him, invites a little sadness.
Six years since he hung up his boots, Scholes has carved a reputation as an unsparing television pundit, a scourge of successive United managers, from Louis van Gaal to Jose Mourinho. But you get the impression that talking about football was only ever a way of staving off the boredom until something better came along. He was probably being charitable to BT Sport yesterday when he half-heartedly said that he had "half-enjoyed" media work.
What the 44-year-old craves is a coaching or management job. There has been plenty of talk in recent days of Scholes taking over at League Two Oldham Athletic but, while he was coy when quizzed on that subject and has still to do his Uefa Pro Licence, it is clear he feels he has been out of the game long enough. "I've made no secret that I want to get back into football in some form of coaching. If that's Oldham I don't know, there's nothing to report on that," he said.
"But I've got to a point now where, if something does come up, I don't want to be sat at home wondering about it.
"What makes you, not depressed but sad really, is when for 20 odd years, from leaving school, I've been trying to achieve something all the time, but that's gone away.
"You spend five or six years in the media and there is nothing to achieve. It might be a massive failure, but I want that sense of feeling again on a Saturday afternoon to have something to achieve. I want to be challenged."
A six-month stint with United's reserves and a spell coaching with Salford City whetted the appetite and he is hungry for more.
"What type of coach will I be? I don't know until I start doing it," Scholes says. "I think the days of screaming and shouting are gone. I've got kids myself - 19 and 17 - and you can't say a word to them without them reacting."
The 'snowflake' generation? "A bit soft, yeah," Scholes says, laughing.
"You have to approach it differently, possibly, to how Sir Alex Ferguson would have done."
Scholes is speaking after a press conference in which he and his former United team-mates, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, Phil and Gary, announced that David Beckham had agreed to join his "Class of 92" cohorts as a co-owner of Salford City. Less than five years after they bought the non-league club, Salford, currently a point behind National League leaders Leyton Orient, have League Two in their sights and are dreaming big.
Yet, as the most famous home-grown products in the modern English game talk at Hotel Football in the shadow of Old Trafford, Ferguson's own dream of having this band of brothers - academy graduates who provided the backbone of United's for over a decade - helping to shape the future of the club is unfulfilled. Only one of their number - Butt, United's academy director - works for the club.
"Yeah, it is a little bit strange," Scholes says. "It was always the manager's idea that he would have us all involved in some capacity. I think he always wanted something similar to Bayern Munich or Ajax where there are always ex-players involved, but it has just not happened. A lot changed at the club, obviously David Gill [the chief executive] changed as well."
Does Scholes think this disconnect hurts Ferguson? "I don't know, you'd have to ask him," he says. "I always remember the last couple of years before his retirement he wanted us involved, wanted us to get our coaching badges, wanted us around the academy and around the club. Look, if we were offered roles it would be up to us individually to take them. If we had been given roles which we were happy with and we wanted to take them, then I am sure we would have done."
With Mourinho now gone and another United old boy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, revelling in the role of caretaker manager with seven successive wins and a return to attacking football, perhaps the door will open to the "Class of 92" down the line.
"If there is something in the future I am sure we would all be open to it." For the time being, though, Scholes is just enjoying being able to take pleasure in watching United play on the front foot again after what he bluntly branded the "s****" served up in the six years since Ferguson retired.
"Since Ole has come back, you feel like you've got your club back," Scholes says. "You don't ever feel like you've lost it, but it feels like you've got someone there who knows United. You'd almost feel welcome there again."
Scholes was a critic of Mourinho, but he is unrepentant. "You can't get away with bulls****ing people. I can understand managers being unhappy with what I said at times. I wasn't slagging the club off, I was slagging the football off. Now Ole's there it might be a bit easier because they're playing better."
Scholes knows if he does take that plunge into management, some will be sharpening their knives. "I've left myself open to a bit of stick but I'm big enough to take it."
He just needs that chance now.
© Daily Telegraph, London