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article imageSchweinsteiger's move to Man United could backfire under Van Gaal

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jul 17, 2015 in Sports
Manchester United’s transfer activity reached unprecedented heights following Bastian Schweinsteiger’s move to Old Trafford.
Unlike predecessor David Moyes, Louis van Gaal reassured United was an attractive destination to ply your trade and potentially win trophies, as the league slowly retains the prestige it once held. Frankly, not even Sir Alex Ferguson himself was capable of capturing world-class players, opting to build promising talents into the final product, rather than spending excessive funds on world-class talent.
This was partially down to the fact that Ferguson was reluctant on overspending, but the state of the club during the final stages of his tenure, and subsequent to his departure displayed the downfall to his beliefs, as well as Ferguson’s shrewd managerial skills. The Red Devils required fresh faces, and a new club ethos for the future, with Van Gaal opting to purchase players that have reached a world-class level to instantly feature in the starting XI to compliment promising youthful players.
Last year’s tribulation, though, placed United back into the Champions League, and Van Gaal’s summer activity typifies a man, let alone a club, seeking domestic success. Though Van Gaal persists with working with younger players – seeing as it’s easier to nurture them into his philosophy – Schweinsteiger’s move to United is a difficult move to assess.
The worry for most United fans surrounds the failure of last year’s marquee signings in Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao. Di Maria eclipsed world-class levels in his final year at Real Madrid, playing a key role in a historic club double, while Falcao was arguably the most revered striker in the world, prior to his knee ligament injury at Monaco.
Neither player was capable of eclipsing their peak form under Van Gaal, and with Schweinsteiger approaching 31 next month, this could be another case of United capturing a well-respected player that’s over-the-hill. However, unlike the aforementioned signings, Schweinsteiger would fit the mold of a player that United has required since their last European triumph, if it occurred three to four years ago.
It’s one of the few weak areas that Van Gaal has addressed this summer, and with the inclusion of Morgan Schneiderlin – an underrated Premier League midfielder that would feature in any starting XI in the division – United’s midfield possesses the combative edge that will trouble most sides.
Schweinsteiger’s role, though, isn’t defined. The German captain couldn’t fit into a Bayern Munich midfield filled with technically gifted, versatile midfielders, and while his power, combined with his ability to set the tempo of matches with his passing from deep, classifies him as a possible asset to the Red Devils, he isn’t an improvement on the trio that should feature in the XI.
United were riddled with injuries throughout last season’s campaign, and Schweinsteiger’s fitness issues serves as one of the main concerns with his arrival. Surely his experience and leadership will prove significant, but the 30-year-old has featured in 37 of 68 Bundesliga games over the past two seasons due to recurring ankle and knee injuries, whilst starting 82 times in the past four season.
“It is a challenge for me. I feel very good. I had last year the thing with my knee after the World Cup, which was very intensive for me, and I had a break at October,” said Schweinsteiger.
“But from that time on I had no injury, I was fit and felt fit at the end. Of course sometimes when you are getting older you need a little more time for recovery, maybe half a day more than 20-year-old players so that’s normal. But I think I have a lot of experience, especially of the big matches and that is an advantage always.”
The decline in performances and appearances occurred following the Pep Guardiola appointment as the manager’s obsession with dominating central areas led to various teammates and new signings surpassing Schweinsteiger in the pecking order. While Schweinsteiger’s passing rate hasn’t dipped below 85% over his career, his physical presence didn’t match the slick, technical precision required in a Guardiola midfield.
But this is what United has lacked since the days of Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves. Essentially, Schweinsteiger’s arrival should help address United’s frail midfield presence of the past, and considering deep-lying playmakers tend to peak towards the end of their career, a sense of optimism surrounding the move is expected.
However, similar to Schweinsteiger’s fitness, the German appears to be an occasional top class performer. Often remembered for a superb World-Cup, it was solely his finals performance – in fairness, arguably the biggest match and challenge of his career, marking Lionel Messi, and overcoming a scrappy Argentine midfield – that elevated his global status, remaining the main narrative of his tournament.
Likewise, though, unlike the elite midfielders of this current era, he’s failed to maintain such levels, partially due to fitness, and a few flaws that may hamper his new challenge at Old Trafford. Schweinsteiger has been exploited when pressed by disciplined opposition, and struggles to defend and attack in tight spaces.
A loss of pace and mobility has seen attackers comfortably beat the German on the half-turn, and equally storm past him in transition, which could prove costly in a full throttle Premier League. With no winter break, combined with international duty ahead of Euro 2016, the German captain awaits a vigorous 12 months.
This explains the skepticism behind the influence Schweinsteiger can offer on the pitch. The likelihood of playing an integral role in a title-winning campaign – starting 25-30 games – appears doubtful, and though a new challenge could reinvigorate motivation, adapting to a physically demanding league in your late thirties – when he will most likely expect to start – will be challenging.
Still, the arrival of Schneiderlin, and potential big money shopping for a new striker, and centre-back, Schweinsteiger’s frailties may be futile – with Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera all capable of playing in midfield, United now possess various options in central areas. Though this all lies on whether Carrick – who also lacks mobility, and struggles against physical opposition – can remain consistent, and Herrera evolves in his creative shuttling role.
Following years of disappointment, Schweinsteiger is a proven winner at all levels, and though his presence offers United a true leader to aid Wayne Rooney – following the departures of Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic – the German’s arrival feels mightily similar to last year’s disappointment. Perhaps Schweinsteiger and Van Gaal’s previous relationship at Bayern signals he may maximize the German’s talent as he represents a new culture shift at Old Trafford and a possible piece to a title winning side.
The state of the market deems Schweinsteiger’s move logical from a financial viewpoint, but the German is aging, whilst his performances in recent years and fitness levels, suggests he isn’t the required standard to anchor the midfield for an elite side.
A new challenge and environment could be the catalyst for Schweinsteiger’s final swansong amongst the elite, but despite his positional intelligence and ability to dictate matches from deep, the several flaws the German possesses could be exposed on a weekly basis in the Premier League. Likewise, his quest for improved playing time ahead of Euro 2016 may not be granted if his teammates excel.
United’s search for a striker and a commanding centre-back continues, but their quick success in bolstering the midfield area deserves praise. Still, the verdict is out on each individual, and with United expected to mount a title challenge, Van Gaal will need to immediately identify the correct balance.
Perhaps leaning on an established veteran exports isn’t the United way, as Schweinsteiger remains a risky gamble that could reap rewards, or become another experienced talent that couldn’t make the difference in the Van Gaal era.
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