One of the greatest midfielders of the 21st century, Bastian Schweinsteiger is now Mourinho’s plaything. The German has led Bayern Munich and the Germany National Team to a countless number of trophies, yet his contributions were deemed unnecessary by Manchester United’s Portuguese helmsman.
Mourinho has made Schweinsteiger (“Schweini”) an outcast since his arrival and only this week was the former Bayern legend allowed to train with the senior squad. But, Mourinho has hinted that even that might be for reasons unrelated to him being reinstated into the matchday lineups.
Looking past the fact that those hinted-at reasons contradict Mourinho’s initial judgment of why he added Schweinsteiger back to the senior squad—he judged it as a ‘human’ decision—it wasn’t totally clear why the Portuguese decided to do so at this stage of the season. What is clear, however, is that Schweinsteiger has the character and experience needed to further motivate a side that is clearly frustrated at the moment.
Schweini actually even fits into the mold better than some of United’s current players. The holding midfield position is one that United are particularly struggling with at the moment—Mourinho has persisted time and again to utilize Marouane Fellaini’s ‘unmissable’ qualities in that position, and needless to say, failed. Michael Carrick is an option that Mourinho has admitted to; but Carrick cannot be relied upon at the age of 35 to be playing regularly, though I realize it contrasts severely with one other particular giant that never seems to tire. Morgan Schneiderlin has not played regularly in a while, but does offer a wealth of talents that have gone largely unused under Louis Van Gaal. The last option that Mourinho’s tried, Ander Herrera, is much more suited to a role further up the field, probably in the central midfield slot.
Enter the outcast.
Schweinsteiger’s pass succession rate—an important figure when discussing the position of holding midfield—over the course of his career is a staggering 87.3%. He is only bested by Morgan Schneiderlin out of the aforementioned competitors by a meager 0.8%. And let’s not forget that Schneiderlin is more than half a decade younger than Schweini. The latter has kept a considerably high level of performance for a much longer time than the French midfielder.
Statistics can be deceiving, but in this case, they are helpfully deceiving. Schweinsteiger played in a team that dominated possession—much like Manchester United in their heyday—and can help distribute the ball more diligently, and even more importantly, control the tempo of the game. While obviously he probably won’t be able to start every game due to his unenviable relationship with injuries, the holding midfield role will be much better utilized with Schweinsteiger putting in a shift every now and then. A born leader, the dressing room will also further strengthen in a time of frustration for such a great football club.
His seclusion may have arguably been the biggest mistake Mourinho has made in his managerial career; his re-inclusion, though, could be the one that really fortifies this Manchester United side and helps revive their beginning of the season aspirations.
Statistics via WhoScored.com