Manchester United ended their season with 70 points and a fairly comfortable top four finish (largely due to the capitulation of Liverpool) thereby achieving what Louis Van Gaal was expected to in his debut season, and just. It was a par season by all accounts and whilst the Red Devils are already showing the necessary intention to improve on their current squad by getting deals done nice and early, it’s that time of the year when Manchester United are linked with every Wesley, Gareth and Harry (pardon the pun) on social media, very few of those imaginary stories do have some truth in them and fewer would actually go on to materialize.
But amidst all of this, if anything is clear as daylight, it is United’s need to find an alternative to Michael Carrick who has had a very good season which could have turned out better for him and the club if it were not for his recurring calf problems. Van Gaal has been very vocal about his team’s lack of balance, and not having a right footed/right sided midfielder to play the holding role as well as Carrick does (in his absence) has certainly not helped the cause. Man United are now linked with a few of that kind, the archetypal right footed midfielder who can defend as well as launch an attack or a box-to-box footballer in Ilkay Gundogan and more recently the 30-year old Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The German international has had a stellar career which took off to another level when he finally conquered the world in Brazil with his country men and also playing an integral role at Bayern Munich under Jupp Heyneckes when they achieved an historic treble. Basically, Bastian can be described as a midfielder that can do it all – control the game, take the initiative and also chip in with goals when needed. A midfielder that takes defensive responsibilities seriously, Bastian has worked under Louis Van Gaal during his short two year spell in Bavaria when they won the league title and reached the Champions League final in 2010, who also played a key role in transforming Schweinsteiger as a regular first team player, shifting him to a more central position from a wider role he was playing at youth level.
So what does Bastian Schweinsteiger offer to a Man United side that struggles so much when a 33-year old midfielder gets injured? Here’s how he compares with the current midfielders at United.
Looking at the numbers, it can be understood that Schweinsteiger relishes to be at the forefront of every meaningful move with a high number of average passes per 90 minutes and notably a far superior number of chances created (2.12) when compared to the likes of Herrera and Carrick, although the latter plays a more deeper role at United compared to Bastian who is best suited to play in a three, preferably alongside a holding midfielder. His pass completion has also been up there with the likes of Carrick and Herrera which is always vital to Van Gaal’s style of football where retaining possession and controlling the outcome are two chief ingredients of his philosophy.
Defensively, he’s sound enough to play the holding role in Carrick’s absence as the German international has gone on to win 1.58 tackles per 90 as opposed to 1.17 by Michael Carrick. Schweinsteiger has also managed to a high percentage of take-ons, close to 70%, which sits him head and shoulders above the current midfielders at United. With close to 2 interceptions per 90 minutes, Bastian has shown he can ably contribute to the defensive side of the game making him a rounded, well experienced central midfielder who could be available for a cut price this summer with his contract expiring in 12 months.
Having stayed at Bayern Munich for the entirety of his football career till date with over 500 appearances spanned across 17 years to his name, he’s every bit of a ‘Fußballgott’ in Munich as the likes of Giggs and Scholes are in most parts of Manchester. When asked about his uncertain future after the final Bundesliga game of the season, Bastian himself said,
‘I have a contract until 2016. I’m glad that you asked. I won’t comment.’
Only time will tell about what’s in store for him and United’s central midfield that is craving for balance, but there can be little doubt in anyone’s mind regarding the size of impact he could make in England should he arrive, at Manchester United, as their first German to kick a ball in ages.