Scholes unveiled at Oldham: 'It might be the biggest mistake of my life or the best thing I ever did'
OLDHAM, England -- When Manchester United last played a European home game, in November against Young Boys, a horrified Paul Scholes watched from the television studio and, as usual, didn't mince his words.
"It's always 'I,' isn't it?" he said of Jose Mourinho's post match interview after a difficult 1-0 win. "I won the Champions League. I won the Europa League.' Last time I looked football was a team game."
Scholes was critical of both United's football and Mourinho's tactics at the time. "The best attacking teams in the world play attacking football," he opined. "The way his team is playing now is looking out of date. If they play against a half-decent team, they get beat."
Much has changed since, but Manchester United will meet a more than half-decent team when they entertain Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16 at Old Trafford on Tuesday. The dismissed Mourinho won't be there and neither will Scholes: he'll be managing Oldham Athletic, in his first-ever game as a football manager, against Yeovil Town.
Scholes was unveiled as the new boss of the team in England's fourth tier at a cold, sunny Boundary Park, nine miles northeast of central Manchester, on Tuesday. Asked if he had any second thoughts about going into the precarious occupation of football management, Scholes had some choice words for the 43 assembled members of the media. (There are normally three reporters at Oldham most weeks.)
"No, not really," Scholes said. "I always felt this was the right time from my first conversation with them. It might be the biggest mistake of my life, I don't know. Or it might be the best thing I ever did. There's an uncertainty there, I don't doubt that. That's how I'm going into it."
Scholes is nervous, but ultimately confident, about the task ahead.
"I didn't sleep much last night but you have to address the players straight away, tell them your beliefs," he said. "I'll be nervous tomorrow thinking about the team. They're in a good place at the minute and had a great win on Saturday. I don't think there's that much to change at the minute so I think we just carry on as we are.
"A manager can't do much without players who have the ability to get out of the league and I think these players have that."
Scholes, who's been watching Oldham since childhood and was a fan until he started playing for Manchester United, can call on strong connections. Asked if he plans to speak to his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson for advice, he said: "Yes, I'm sure the gaffer is on the other end of the phone. He'll want me to do well and if I need any help from him, I'll be ringing him, of course I will."
He also plans to speak to former Manchester United teammates and close friends Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt.
"I've got great experience [to call upon] with Gary [Neville], too, what he did in Valencia, Ryan [Giggs] with Wales and under Louis Van Gaal," Scholes said. "A lot of different experiences. I'll definitely be speaking to them a lot. When I'm not quite sure what to do, I'll be looking to them for advice."
Scholes appeared relaxed at his unveiling, but he's taking charge at a club that's seriously lacking stability; Oldham have been through over 20 managers in the last 25 years and have average home crowds of just over 4,000. They were a founder member of the Premier League and twice played Manchester United in FA Cup semifinals in 1990 and 1994, but they've long slipped and sank into England's fourth tier this season.
After 718 appearances for United, third-most in the club's history, Scholes almost joined Oldham as a player.
"It was in the last year of my career the first time I retired and I think Joe [Royle, then-Oldham manager] got in touch with Sir Alex and asked me if I fancied it. I wasn't playing much at United back then," he explained. "I was old, my legs had gone and he asked me if I was interested in possibly a player-manager role? I wasn't ready then and it's taken me a while to get ready for it. Whether I'm ready now, we'll soon see."
Asked if he was worried about interference in the team from club owner Abdallah Lemsagam, and whether he'd had a conversation with him on the subject, Scholes was straightforward: "I don't think there was any need for a conversation. As the owner of a football club, he is going to be interested in his team, I am sure about that. He won't be picking the team: myself and the coaching staff will be picking the team, so I think we are quite clear on that."
Scholes won't be at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, but he did comment about Mourinho's replacement, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the work he's done since taking on the job in mid-December.
"Ole's just a nice man, I know what he's like," Scholes said. "He's got a great way about him, players will want to play for him. Of course that's what I want here as well.
"In terms of style of play at Oldham? I can't say I want them to play like Manchester United just yet but I want them to play an entertaining style of football. I want the players to think about scoring goals and winning games."
Solskjaer was also effusive about his former teammate at his own press conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tie at Old Trafford.
"All the best," he said. "I have watched him as a pundit. He has been asking for it! It is fantastic to have Scholesy back in the game. It wasn't what he thought he was going to do as a player but you know with football, that drug, when you don't get it. It will be good to watch Oldham."
Yet Scholes, for his part, is unsure if he's contemplating a long career in management. "It's a start," Scholes said. "I needed to give it a go, I'm excited by it. I've been excited about it for a good while now. If it comes off, great, if it doesn't, at least I've given it a go."
Such is his profile and the reverence around him. He'll be watched closely, not least by Manchester United fans and his former teammates -- and, of course, by Jose Mourinho.<.p>