If Manchester United managed to pull off the signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich, he would, at best, offer three or four years of quality service. It’s for that reason the German is only a short-term fix to United’s long-standing midfield problems.
Per talkSPORT’s interview with football pundit Graham Hunter (h/t the Mirror), Pep Guardiola is willing to offload Schweinsteiger this summer, with United his likely destination.
It’s certainly a move that would make sense given that Louis van Gaal worked with Schweinsteiger during his spell in charge of the Bavarian giants.
For United, it’s a question of weighing up what Schweinsteiger has to offer against how long he can offer it for.
The German is still very much a classy player and would add some much-needed quality in midfield, but he is injury prone and has already peaked in the context of his career.
Schweinsteiger Is Precisely What United Need in Midfield
Unquestionably, Schweinsteiger would dramatically improve United’s midfield.
Having moved to central midfield from his role on the right wing, he has become one of the world’s best, mainly because of his all-round skill set.
As the above video illustrates, Schweinsteiger is capable of scoring goals from just about anywhere—free-kicks, long-range efforts, tap-ins and the odd extravagant backheel flick. Contrast the German’s attacking threat with United’s trio of Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley and it’s a no-brainer.
He’s not afraid to shoot or move forward into an advanced position, which is what United need.
According to GoalImpact.com’s objective ratings, which measure a player’s contribution to his team’s goal difference per minute, Schweinsteiger is currently the third-best player in the world. Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Philipp Lahm have a higher rating.
As the above image shows, Schweinsteiger's rise and rise has occurred in spite of numerous injury problems. That’s admirable.
The average player has a value of 100, so Schweinsteiger’s rating of 183 just goes to show how important he still is. United would be getting a genuinely world-class player if they landed Schweinsteiger.
But there is a flip side to this argument, and there are a number of reasons why United should be cautious in bringing the German to Old Trafford.
The Problem With Signing Schweinsteiger
A few seasons ago, signing Schweinsteiger would have been perfect.
With bite in midfield, unsurpassed leadership qualities and excellent technical ability, he would have been superb alongside Michael Carrick or Paul Scholes.
But football rarely works out like that and, instead, United would be signing a different player to the one they were mooted to have been interested in under Sir Alex Ferguson.
For context, B/R’s Clark Whitney provides some insight into why Schweinsteiger has struggled in previous seasons:
On an individual level, Schweinsteiger has not in recent years reached the peak he experienced under Van Gaal in 2009-10. He (like Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan) seemed to suffer from post-World Cup fatigue in 2010-11, and in the spring of 2012 he sustained an ankle injury that has become a chronic problem, forcing numerous operations. He admitted (via Fifa.com) to playing through the pain barrier at Euro 2012, and his 31-month stint without playing in international friendlies (which only ended in March) speaks of a player who has not been at 100 percent for a very long time.
That should be a worry for United.
On the one hand, their target is to qualify for the Champions League in 2015/16, regardless of how they do it—and for that reason, Schweinsteiger would be ideal in terms of providing the leadership and drive to get United back into the top four.
But he is not the player he once was, in a physical sense, which is why he cannot be relied upon. United would be playing with fire if they only brought in Schweinsteiger this summer to shore up the midfield.
A reoccurrence of his ankle injury is all it would take for his season to be ruined.
The same goes for every player, of course, but United simply have to rebuild their midfield this summer. Schweinsteiger would be a fine start, as long as he’s joined by one or two more.
Weighing up the Pros and Cons: Is Schweinsteiger Worth it?
Short-term fixes aren’t exclusively a bad thing. After all, United signed Robin van Persie when he was the same age as Schweinsteiger is currently, and the Dutchman was pivotal in securing Ferguson’s 13th and final Premier League trophy.
Could Schweinsteiger have a similar impact? Sure.
There’s no question that he could reinvigorate United’s midfield, dictating play from deep and adding some defensive mettle behind the attacking threat of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata.
And if he remains injury-free, he could be a hit at Old Trafford for three or four years, which would be more than enough time to be instrumental in Van Gaal’s tenure.
I can confirm, from reliable sources in Germany and England, that Manchester United are VERY keen on getting Schweinsteiger #mufc 1/2— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) June 6, 2014
I understand Man UTD have already talked to Bayern about Schweinsteiger. - van Gaal loves him.... #mufc 2/2— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) June 6, 2014
But signing Schweinsteiger is fraught with risks.
The versatility that makes him such an attractive prospect means that he would be sorely missed if he faced a lengthy spell out injured. United cannot afford to rely on him for that reason.
And in a wider context, there are arguably more suitable players United should be targeting.
Schweinsteiger’s Bayern team-mate Javi Martinez, for example, would offer great defensive cover in front of the back four, and United would still have enough attacking talent to allow the 25-year-old Spaniard to do what he does best.
Juventus’ Arturo Vidal, an all-rounder in a similar manner to Schweinsteiger, is two years younger than Schweinsteiger and offers more energy and dynamism in midfield.
So if United are targeting (at least) one world-class midfielder this summer, a player who can transform the midfield, then Schweinsteiger probably wouldn’t top that list.
But if Van Gaal trusts Schweinsteiger to be his midfield general and wants to make him his No. 1 target then it’s hard to argue against that.
The Dutchman knows the German better than most, which is why Schweinsteiger could be the symbol of Van Gaal’s era—the driving force behind a new United.
Just don’t be surprised if it only lasts for a couple of seasons.