Former German International Bastian Schweinsteiger has been the lone subject of controversy in what has been an abundantly positive transfer window for Manchester United. The 32-year old has been reportedly told that he was not in the plans of Jose Mourinho – which has culminated into the German veteran training with the club’s under-23 squad since the Portuguese took over the club in July. This has quickly become the most divisive topic among Man United fans as to whether or not someone of Schweinsteiger’s stature should be treated the way he has been allegedly treated at the minute.
Firstly, it’s prudent to assess Schweinsteiger’s qualities, the things that he can offer now to Jose Mourinho’s Man United team before jumping to premature conclusions. From the days of Rafael playing in the midfield and bringing Paul Scholes back from retirement due to a gaping hole in the squad, Manchester United have come a long way. Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick are all seemingly ahead of Schweinsteiger in the pecking order – five players for two positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Mourinho prefers, it’s easy to see why the German will likely never feature again in a Man United shirt for the foreseeable future.
Mourinho’s successful teams are defined by an archetypal defensive midfielder – from Makelele to Cambiasso to the more recent Nemanja Matic who was instrumental in Chelsea’s impressive title win in 2014/15. While he’s been more flexible with the number of midfielders in his go to eleven, his early Chelsea teams perfected a devastatingly quick counter-attacking 4-3-3 while his Real Madrid took scoring against the run of play to another level with quick thinking, hard working midfielders and the double winning Chelsea team played a double pivot in most games with Matic in the holding role and Fabregas in the number 8 role.
It’s hard to see what kind of a contribution Bastian can make in this current set up when United already have one of the best old fashioned central midfielders in the world, if not the best, in Paul Pogba while Ander Herrera, given a run of games, can certainly challenge Pogba for a place in the starting eleven. Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin will all battle for the remaining spot but given the recent tidy performances by the Belgian, the other two will do very well to displace him from the starting eleven. It’s a great problem for any manager to have but for someone like Mourinho who’s used to managing short squads with great success, Schweinsteiger might just be one too many to disappoint week in week out.
Schweinsteiger, five years ago, would have been undroppable. Having lost more than a yard of pace and intensity in his pressing, Bastian is more of an hindrance than a valuable addition to the current set up. If anything, the 3-0 defeat at Emirates last season, was the microcosm of Schweinsteiger’s shortcomings; and it did not make for great viewing. Also the fact that the German is rarely fit – he’s only made 18 appearances (1200 odd minutes) owing to his recurring injury problems has only made the matters worse, especially for Mourinho who is known for making little changes, unless forced by injury, to what he thinks is his strongest squad.
The 32-year old who recently announced his international retirement, released a statement a couple of days ago stating his intent on staying at United, fight for his place as he said, Manchester United were going to be his last club in Europe. He may not have not realized the difficult situation he has now put the club and its manager in, which in itself is unhealthy this early in the season but it also seems that he has quite definitely undermined Mourinho’s position of authority within the club by clearly going against his manager’s wishes, although it is well within his right to see out his £190,000 per week contact for the next two years.
But Jose Mourinho, who must now be well aware of what player power can do to a team and the manager first hand, will now be better positioned to make a sensible decision.