As a player, Paul Scholes was known for being a quiet man. While Manchester United contemporaries such as David Beckham, Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs became front-page news at various stages of their careers, the midfielder rarely put a foot out of line away from the field.
A family man who loved nothing more than picking his kids up from school and spending time at home with his family whenever the chance arose, Scholes was not the type to go looking for big endorsements which commanded camera time and column inches in return for big bucks.
So it came as something of a surprise to many when he was handed a four-year deal by BT Sport in 2014 to become a regular studio pundit, and what has followed has been a string of controversial and sometimes highly-emotional appraisals of United’s on-and off-field issues.
Having identified problems with the style of play under Louis van Gaal, the Dutchman felt compelled to pick out Scholes as one of the reasons why United’s fans were turning against him. And the 44-year-old has since ended up in a public back-and-forth with Jose Mourinho following his criticism of the Portuguese’s approach before his sacking in December.
Earlier this season, Scholes called out Mourinho for his sulky demeanour throughout the campaign: “He’s coming out in press conferences, he’s constantly having a go at players, he’s having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants. I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he’s embarrassing the club.”
That was just part of what has felt at times like a constant battle between the two, with the peak coming when Mourinho fired back at Scholes’ decision to question Paul Pogba’s form in January 2018.
“I think the only thing Paul Scholes does is criticise. I don’t think he comments, he criticises, which is a different thing,” Mourinho blasted. “I think Scholes will be in history as a phenomenal player, not as a pundit.
“If Paul one day decides to be a manager, I wish that he can be 25 per cent as successful as myself. If he’s 25%, he’ll be quite happy. It’s not Paul Pogba’s fault that he made much more money than Paul Scholes, It’s just the way football goes.”
Now, though, Scholes might finally get to sample the other side of the coin, with Oldham Athletic having appointed the boyhood Boundary Park regular as manager after the sacking of Frankie Bunn.
Scholes knows better than anyone that having got the job there will be an intense spotlight on the style of football his side plays given his review of United’s managers since he took up his TV role.
“If I go into coaching or management and results are not good, I have left myself open to a bit of stick but I am big enough to take it,” he added on Wednesday.
In an ideal world, Scholes will want to oversee an attractive football team, but a club sitting in mid-table in League Two and having recently lost to second-bottom Macclesfield Town – themselves managed by another England legend in Sol Campbell – might find that is not the priority right now.
One thing that has really come through in his punditry though is that he is a real student of the game. His analysis is as thorough as anyone’s, while his desire to live and breathe every bit of football he can is often borne out by seeing him with a ball at his feet at every opportunity.
He had a brief dalliance with coaching when joining Nicky Butt and Phil Neville in supporting Giggs during the Welshman’s short stint in caretaker-charge of United in 2014 and was a notable advocate of a pacey style of play along with an injection of youth when the chance arose. You would expect little else from a student of the school of Sir Alex Ferguson, while his humble nature as a player and a team-mate ought to carry him far in management too.
A wonderful footballer, who was hailed by the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Xavi, Socrates and Edgar Davids as one of the greatest to play the game – and identified by Ferguson as one of only four world-class players he managed – Scholes has also shown on the TV screen that he can be a hard taskmaster when it is required too.
While it is never easy to predict how good somebody could be at management until they have stepped foot into the arena, Scholes is arguably as well-suited as anyone to give it a real go.
Jose Mourinho, for one, will be watching on with keen interest.