Paul Scholes is one of the greatest players ever to wear a Manchester United shirt and was a world class attacking midfielder.
Perhaps this means that as a pundit, he has high standards for players who occupy a similar role, but his constant recent criticism of United’s talisman Bruno Fernandes is in danger of becoming toxic.
Despite a lacklustre performance shared by the whole team last night against Atletico Madrid, Fernandes provided the moment of magic that rescued a draw for his side.
His brilliant inch-perfect through ball to Anthony Elanga was despatched with ease by the young forward.
And yet in the BT Sports studio when analysing the game (via The Mirror), Scholes said he doubted the Portuguese star’s ability as a number eight.
‘I think he can do it in certain games, don’t get me wrong but it’s only certain games,’ Scholes said.
‘He can play that position without a problem but when you comes up against the best teams when they don’t have as much possession, they won’t have the ball as much, he will get found out.’
Against Leeds United on Sunday, Fernandes was dispossessed from behind in the lead up to a Leeds goal, which looked like a blatant foul that was not given. Scholes was hard on him again.
‘I think Fernandes has to be stronger,’ he said (via The Mirror).
‘He’s almost looking for a foul before anything happens and I don’t think it is a foul.
‘Fernandes has got to be stronger there, that’s a little bit too soft. His head is up in the air looking for a foul before he comes in.’
A week earlier after the Red Devils’ 1-1 draw with Southampton, Scholes was once again on Fernandes’ case (via The Express).
‘I think Fernandes could be a bit of a problem,’ he swiped.
‘As much as he’s a talented lad, when he first came to England, he scored so many good goals, so many assists, but he’s all over the football pitch.
‘How can you set traps for teams when you don’t know where some of your players are gonna be?
‘You see Fernandes, sometimes he’s a right-back, sometimes left-back, the end of the game he’s playing behind Dalot for five minutes.’
The former star is of course entitled to his opinion and there may be some merit in much of what he says.
However, the recurring focus on Fernandes seems targeted and is reminiscent of pundit Graeme Souness’ obsessive criticism of Paul Pogba.
United fans have often said that Souness’ negative rhetoric around Pogba was born out of jealousy and whilst Scholes has no reason to be jealous of Fernandes, could he perhaps feel threatened that his amazing legacy will be overtaken by the Porto-born star?
At 27 years of age, Fernandes has 237 career goals and assists from 404 games for United, Sporting Lisbon, Udinese, Sampdoria and Serie D side Novara.
This already eclipses Scholes’ career total, which was 226 in 713 games for the Red Devils.
And with 88 goal involvements in 114 games already for United, it is possible that if he stays at Old Trafford until the end of his career, Fernandes will smash the record set by his predecessor.
It is, of course, a pundit’s job to analyse the team’s performance. But in light of his incredible contribution to United’s cause – which he has produced during one of the most barren spells in the club’s history – Fernandes should be afforded a little more respect from Scholes, who, of all people, should be able to better appreciate his qualities.