While Manchester United fans were sweating on a fee being agreed and/or Morgan Schneiderlin making his mind up, in a preposterous weekend mid-July last summer, United announced a deal for Bastian Schweinsteiger. Twitter was abuzz late Friday night and both cubs duly confirmed the news the following afternoon. Bayern’s chief executive spoke fondly of the player and a touch regrettably of the move; it was actually happening. Schweinsteiger. Then the same thing happened with Schneiderlin late Sunday night.
That weekend was particularly giddy for United fans for a couple of other reasons. Firstly, United don’t do big business early on in the summer. Unorthodox witchcraft from the likes of Jose Mourinho. Secondly, at that time, the previously abandoned sinkhole in central midfield still hadn’t been filled adequately, so the novelty of a bona fide and a coveted player joining for that exact need was pretty exciting to say the least. Murmurs questioning Schweinsteiger’s age, recent injury record and motivations for the move were merrily drowned out by the dopamine of real life Master League. ‘What’s Pep been saying since? Whatever!’
Perhaps Schneiderlin’s signing so close to Schweinsteiger helped ease any immediate reservations. Anyone wondering why the transfer fee was especially low and why Bayern were happy to let the current World Cup winner do one would wonder, but immediate enamoured appraisals rigidly need sticking to and United suddenly boasted several options in midfield anyway, so it was fine. The honeymoon period did not disappoint on tour and that served him well into winter when it became apparent that he was a bit ropey at times at the playing bit and added further leisureliness to an already ponderous side. But! Schweinsteiger is still mentally solid, can still control, pass and nick a ball cleanly, so if there’s pace around him which there wasn’t, it was probably fine.
As United headed out of the more suitably paced Champions League, in which Schweinsteiger started every group game, and into spring, he appeared on the rather chunky side following two months and thirteen games out with injury reduced to cheerleader status. Whether Schweinsteiger would shift the weight quickly was rendered moot this season with further knee ligament damage that almost certainly rules him out of the Euros this summer. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger’s offfield persona was also diminishing, if not entirely seriously.
Bastian Schweinsteiger wishing people happy birthday.https://t.co/NLPumcaYAT— Jonny Gabriel (@JonnyGabriel) April 8, 2016
Without the constant eulogies from new colleagues more recently (have there been any for a while now?), and pal Van Gaal patently underwhelmed by his old captain, even hanging him out to dry after elimination from the Champions League he was clearly assigned for, concerns all worryingly come into focus again. The flip side is that Schweinsteiger’s temperament, we assume,is better than, say, Wayne Rooney’s entitlement to play based on salary regardless of form. Interestingly, Schweinsteiger is arguably even worse value for money than Rooney riding his Moyes money train but isn’t typically the focus of fans’ ire.
That mood could change if Schweinsteiger is on the books next season and without visible improvement. Sami Khedira – "stand in" Germany captain in Schweinsteiger’s absence – reckons, "Everyone who writes him off makes a big mistake." Schweinsteiger’s more measured leadership skills may save him from being axed by an incoming manager in the summer for a second chance to contribute meaningfully at United. He may easily be viewed as being synonymous with Van Gaal and instead terminated to Fenerbahce reminiscent of Van Persie. Both decisions have merit, and an oddly thin midfield again not being an overhaul priority might grant a reprieve out of convenience, but current evidence does not look favourable on Schweinsteiger. Don’t expect United to get any love on social media from Schweinsteiger if they move him on and then recruit Zlatan Ibrahimovic – not that anyone should care.