When the excitement settled over Manchester United’s four day transfer splurge over last weekend, a subsequent question lingered in the air – where will all these players play? And how important can these players be?
The Whole Can Be Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts
One note of interest we picked up from Bild’s coverage of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s transfer was a reference to Louis van Gaal having a ‘double six’ after signing Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton.
An article on Football365.com today commended Louis van Gaal’s identification of the pair as a ‘significant upgrade’ on what we previously had but adds the caveat that the signings aren’t perfect nor would either player ‘trouble a current world XI’ and while the writer, Daniel Storey, has a point, it’s worth challenging it from an admittedly biased perspective.
The latter point is rigidly valid even with the subjective nature of how such ‘teams’ are compiled. One could certainly argue that Bastian Schweinsteiger – captain of the World Champions and of undoubted pedigree – may find a place (this from January shows an impartial view not remotely connected to this website which places Schweinsteiger has the ‘second best’ central midfielder behind Andres Iniesta) but it’s one of those debates which essentially boil down to personal preference.
No stretch of the imagination would see Schneiderlin named in a world XI even if, with his potential and form over the last few seasons, there is a section of Manchester United support more impressed with his signing than Schweinsteiger.
Schneiderlin, after all, is a player United supporters have seen more of, or at least been exposed to more. His performance at Old Trafford in January was outstanding but that was simply one of many in 2014/15. What makes him an important signing for United is that Arsenal were rumoured to be strongly interested and after making a significant capture of their own in Petr Cech, adding Schneiderlin becomes important on two counts – one, that we have him, and two, a rival doesn’t.
Schweinsteiger the game changer
We alluded to this on the website yesterday but the signing of Schweinsteiger could have a number of effects. He may not make many people’s ‘World XI” but few would challenge the widely held opinion that he is a genuine world class midfielder.
Is he past his peak? Well, that’s a question that we can’t answer until his career is over. It stands to reason that at 30, almost 31, it may well be true that his best days are behind him. Yet there is another school of logic that would contend that some of his best may yet still be to come. Some of Ryan Giggs’ and Paul Scholes’ best years were in their thirties and the same can be said of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Nobody can forsee the future but in the present it is safe to say that Schweinsteiger is world class and arguably (we say, reservedly) the best midfielder in the league. That is to add in our own caveat of conceding this is before we have seen him kick a ball in the Premier League – it should not be taken for granted that he will adapt easily, even if he appears to have the skill set.
Why he is the ‘perfect’ signing as far as we are concerned is because – aside from the quality which should go without speaking – he was previously seen as one of those untouchable players. A lifelong Bayern player, he seemed as unattainable as Giggs or Scholes proved to be throughout their careers.
We wrote a few weeks ago about how impressed we were with Louis van Gaal’s ‘go big’ policy. To us, it barely mattered if we got some of the players we were rumoured to be in for, it was the intention which meant a lot. But the success of the Schweinsteiger (arguably, one only Van Gaal could have pulled off) sends a tremendously powerful message. He was a player seemingly just as unattainable as Sergio Ramos.
Sky Sports News may have tried their best to elevate the Raheem Sterling transfer in to the story of the summer but it pales in significance in comparison to United’s moves in recent days, particularly that of the German. The reaction in the German press speaks volumes – it is a critical signing at a critical time for United to acquire the captain of the World Cup winners from one of the historic and recently relevant eminent teams in European football.
Van Gaal has seemingly been successful in elevating United to a similar platform as Bayern, and even, perhaps, pushing them past them again in terms of reputation – no mean feat given their respective accomplishments in very recent years.
In all respects, Bastian Schweinsteiger is the perfect signing for Manchester United, and (even anticipating how putting such statements on record can blow up in your face) he may turn out to be one of the most important signings that the club have made.
Which leads us back to the quandary of how United may line up. Both midfielders are almost sure to start.
No, Schneiderlin isn’t yet in the world class bracket, but it must be remembered that it isn’t necessary for him to be. Nicky Butt was rarely – if ever – spoke of as glowingly as that and he is a player who was tremendously underrated for his contributions in the biggest games.
The whole really can be greater than the sum of its parts and Bild’s reference to a ‘double six’ indicates that United supporters may be treated to a midfield akin to Roy Keane and Nicky Butt, or even Paul Ince and Bryan Robson – two box to box midfielders, two industrious and energetic workers.
Former Red – and leading pundit – Danny Higginbotham recently told RetroUnited.com exclusively that one of the major benefits of signing the pair is their respective ability to bring out the best in their team-mates. We have seen that in Schneiderlin at Southampton and in Roy Keane we saw the true value of that quality. To have two players with that capacity makes their potential value far greater than the reported £35m we have paid for them. United have not only put an engine in the engine room for the first time in over a decade, they have one of the best in the business.
Ahead of the final game of last season, Van Gaal said ‘The number six is a key player, yes. I have more key roles – the number six is just one of those key roles. You have seen this season, for example, because Carrick is injured and I don’t have another, I have to play with Ander Herrera there. He did it very well but it is not his speciality. That is why it is a key role but I cannot discuss other positions because then I show too much.’
The manager now has two and after a season spent using a number of different systems, these signings are the clearest indication yet that United will be playing a more conventional form of Van Gaal’s renowned 4-3-3 system.
The big question remains – who will take that third midfield spot? Ander Herrera performed tremendously towards the end of the season while many see Angel Di Maria as an attacking player from that position. It seems certain that a popular player will suffer but as Van Gaal has shown repeatedly in his year in charge – if it is for the betterment of Manchester United, he will be ruthless and clinical.