As Manchester United prepare for life back in the big time, the talk seems to centre around the possibility of a ‘Galactico’ era. Even with David De Gea edging ever closer to joining the team that brought about the term, Real Madrid, Louis van Gaal seems hell bent on securing a player of the highest quality. But what we seem to be forgetting are the players already signed by the Dutchman. Midfield dynamos Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin have arrived at the Theatre of Dreams, fixing a problem oh so prevalent in the side since the breakup of the Roy Keane-Paul Scholes partnership.
For years, former Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson had, arguably, the strongest midfield pairing in the league, and potentially in Europe. Captain Roy Keane brought an energy and drive to the side, along with ferocious determination. Since his acrimonious departure from the club a decade ago, the Manchester side have lacked a certain bite in midfield. Scholes would continue to expertly operate in the engine room for many years after Keane’s leaving, and his creativity has never truly been replaced either. The fact he was forced to come out of retirement to help his side speaks volumes about the sorry state of affairs in the United midfield.
Owen Hargreaves arrived from Bayern Munich after a protracted transfer saga, but a spate of big injuries never allowed to the England midfield man to show his true class. Since the disbanding of the Ronaldo/Rooney/Berbatov/Tevez front line, the lack of genuine class in the middle of the park has been cruelly exposed. In signing both Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, Van Gaal has cleaned up a mess neglected by Ferguson and made even worse by David Moyes.
Not since the 2008 Champions League victory have United been able to field such a strong midfield. The trio of Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and Paul Scholes was excellent, but the aforementioned injuries to the latter took their toll. Carrick has been a wonderful servant for the club, and is an excellent passer of the ball, but he has been asked to do too much for too long. After capturing Bayern’s English star in 2007, Sir Alex did not sign another defensive midfielder for the club. When David Moyes took over from his compatriot in 2013, he did not act on this.
The frailties of a disconnected engine room have now been addressed, and United can go up a gear. The two new signings add defensive discipline to a side found wanting last year, and provide a strength and depth. German captain Schweinsteiger is a World Cup winning central option, with what seems like a hundred years top class experience. He will add top-class nous, discipline and energy to the Red Devils. Former Southampton man Schneiderlin has time and time again proved what an excellent player he is over the past few seasons on the South Coast. They will both compete with Carrick as perhaps the more defensive options in the centre of the pitch.
Both their arrivals complement a now stacked United midfield. The likes of Juan Mata and Ander Herrera provide the creativity further up the field, but the incoming men are no one dimensional destroyers. Though they will no doubt protect a shaky back four, both possess the necessary skills to start attacks from deep within their own half, with an array of passing skills to be envied. France international Schneiderlin boasted an 89% pass completion rate with the Saints last year, while the German captain managed 88% in the Bundesliga.
In signing two proven international midfield men, the Red Devils are able to have ultimate confidence in their engine room for the first time in years. Their dynamic midfielders can lead their march back into the big time.