Manchester United appear to have found some fortune, albeit indirectly, in Pep Guardiola’s tactical persistence at Bayern Munich.
Guardiola is said to be unhappy with Bastian Schweinsteiger’s apparent lack of adjustment to his system at the Allianz Arena and may now be considering a sale of the 29-year-old midfielder. If Manchester United can get in ahead of what is sure to be a lengthy queue for the German international, they’d sign a midfielder who is arguably better and more fitting for their needs than any player targeted over the past 12 months.
A player of Schweinsteiger’s importance always looked out of reach, even for Manchester United. Even now with Guardiola holding reservations and concerns about the midfielder, his status among Bayern supporters makes it difficult to envisage a sale over the coming months.
But none of United’s targets in the recent past – Ander Herrera, Cesc Fabregas, Koke etc – hit the heights of Schweinsteiger’s all-round game.
Someone like Fabregas would have addressed the lack of creativity in midfield, but he would have required someone alongside him who would sit in front of the back four and help out effectively with defensive work. While Koke has been known for his industry under Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, the young Spanish international just doesn’t have the leadership qualities of Schweinsteiger.
The Bayern vice-captain has had his fair share of injury troubles over the past two years, with a fear being that the club have seen the best of the midfielder and he can only decline over the coming seasons. Yet for now, when he plays, he remains one of the best in Europe, an immensely talented player whose value can be seen all over the pitch, including from set pieces.
United need a player who can, in essence, run their midfield; an addition whose quality as a player can be matched by his ability to lead. One of the aspects of Schweinsteiger’s game that has endeared him to supporters is his willingness to take charge of difficult situations and not shy away when the tide turns against his side. United have arguably lacked that midfield presence since Roy Keane departed the club almost a decade ago.
A player who was available to United who offers similar playing qualities to Schweinsteiger is Kevin Strootman, but the Dutch international gets nowhere near to matching the experience of the German, who has been to three European Cup finals in the past five seasons with Bayern. As things stand, Roma appear likely to man their defences in the event United make a move on Strootman.
But despite the suggestion Schweinsteiger will line up in the red of United next season, it’s simply too difficult to rationalise Bayern selling such an important figure. Schweinsteiger’s value to the club goes beyond just his performances on the pitch. Toni Kroos, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara may do all of their respective jobs to a higher degree than Schweinsteiger – or simply to a more satisfactory level for Guardiola – but the former may never develop into the leader the 29-year-old is, and the latter two, as good as they are, will never be heroes to the club in the way Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm are and Thomas Muller is capable of becoming.
Bottom line: clubs don’t just get rid of players like Schweinsteiger when they don’t have to, especially before they hit 30. It’s akin to Manchester United selling Ryan Giggs when he was still capable of taking flight as a winger, or Barcelona moving on Andres Iniesta.
As a player, they don’t get much better than Schweinsteiger to address the multiple problems in the United midfield. But this is becoming tedious now, the club pursuing a target who, more than likely, won’t ever come close to leaving his current club permanently this summer.