With the German captain’s arrival imminent, United look to have made one of their biggest signings of all time. Schweinsteiger’s age and lack of fitness however, would make one question his long-term viability and effectiveness, in a team that is slowly being re-vitalised with younger, hungrier talent.
Entertaining the notion of Schweinsteiger wearing a United jersey is absolutely tantalising. Believing that it’ll happen is almost an impossibility. The shroud of unlikeliness however has dissipated, as United have confirmed that they have agreed a deal for the midfielder.
While the picture is a brilliant one for United, there lie some harsh realities beyond the silver screen. He’s 30 years old, his fitness record is less than remarkable and his abilities are not what they used to be.
That being said however, Louis van Gaal knows exactly what he is doing. Converting Schweinsteiger from a wide-man to a central midfielder has probably been one of the hallmarks of van Gaal’s managerial career. Not only did it revitalise Bayern’s midfield, but the domino-effect it had on the rest of the team brought Bayern a lasting sense of stability and strength, propelling them back to the helm of the German Bundesliga.
Louis van Gaal’s achievements with Bayern are remarkable, and his best representative on the field, was Schweinsteiger. In many ways, an attempt to reform that relationship, is exactly what United require, at this point.
The inability of many of United’s players, to adjust to van Gaal’s methods and tactics, led to a severe communication breakdown, costing United precious points. Schweinsteiger will be the only person in the side who is familiar with both van Gaal’s tactics and mannerisms, from a club perspective. Whilst Memphis Depay and Blind were under van Gaal’s tutelage leading up to Brazil 2015, neither boast the familiarity and closeness that both player and manager share.
While many will assume Schweinsteiger to start automatically, the reality is fairly simple,
United aren’t signing a 50-game-a-season player, and both club and player know that. They’re buying an excellent midfielder who’ll play in games where experience trumps physicality – primarily, the Champions League. While the Bundesliga may not have all the street credits in the world, it is quite physical, and comparable to EPL in many aspects, leaving only lingering doubts as to his effectiveness in the Premier League as well.
Schweinsteiger’s signing is also being made with one eye on Michael Carrick. Having proved to be United’s most effective player over the last three seasons, Michael Carrick’s late career revival was an absolute revelation. With the arrival of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, Carrick seemed to succumb to his old injury problems, leaving him absent for vital parts of United’s campaign. However, unlike his other unfit teammates, Carrick rarely falters when given the centre-stage. An important quality shared between both him and Schweinsteiger. However the logic in signing a 30 year old to replace a 33 year old, doesn’t hold much water, and it shouldn’t. United dependance on the English midfielder was callously over-exposed in the Englishman’s absence, with neither Rooney, Herrera nor Blind served as a viable alternative.
In that sense, Schneiderlin seems like a stop gap till a better younger all-round CM comes along, but there’s no telling how long that would take. With United’s abysmal record of signing quality central midfielders, slowly repairing itself, they could get one of the most eminent midfielders in the game today. His past season with Bayern is no testament to his ability, but is nonetheless a stern reminder of something much greater. Schweinsteiger served as the heartbeat of the German machine in Brazil. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, while keeping his focus on the field served Germany immensely. His duel with Javier Mascherano in the middle of midfield, during the final, prevented service to Argentina’s attackers, giving his own side a fighting chance to finish it themselves. The exhaustion that inevitable came with such a gladiatorial performance, exacerbated any injuries that came in the next season. As a result he was either left with the medical staff, or on the bench for large spells of Bayern’s campaign, rendering him ineffective.
It’s not impossible to see why United grabbed his attention. He has won everything with Bayern, including a record 8 Bundesliga’s, 7 DFB Pokals and a Champions League, in addition to a World Cup with Germany. The Premier League could prove a fresh challenge for the ‘midfield motor’, as he seeks to further an already iron-clad legacy, under the management of one of the most influential men in his career.
Naysayers will rehash Schweinsteiger’s fitness record and age, but what he can provide as a leader and an experienced tactician, outweighs his physical shortcomings. With United’s average age steadily lowering, and with dead-wood being effectively eliminated, Schweinsteiger’s influence on the team could serve as a priceless addition to a recovering United.
It doesn’t hurt, that United’s greatest midfielder, gives him a sterling vote of confidence. In his Independent coloumn
the Ginger Prince spoke about the midfielder in reference to the ‘World Cup’
“Thomas MA?ller, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger were all excellent, but if I had to pick one as my player of the year it would be Schweinsteiger.”
The future might yet pose more questions than answers, but for the moment United’s prospective capture of Schweinsteiger could serve as a massive statement of intent from a club, looking to re-establish both it’s dominance and identity.