There’s a creeping sense of déjà vu about Manchester United’s transfer business, or supposed business, as the same names keep being linked with a move to Old Trafford.
Paul Pogba and Gareth Bale are just two of the players who crop up on an annual basis as summer targets. Another is Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Creative Commons image by az1172.
Just 12 months ago, the Bayern Munich midfielder was reportedly a priority signing for the then recently-appointed Louis van Gaal and there was talk of a £25million deal. Nothing materialised, and fast forward a year, Schweinsteiger is now a cut-price/bargain/snip – delete as appropriate – £10million target for Van Gaal.
The question now is whether United can afford not to sign the Germany captain for that price.
Schweinsteiger has just a year left on his contract, which accounts for the drop in transfer fee, allied to the fact that he will be 31 in August. Earlier this year, Schweinsteiger said he wasn’t in a hurry to discuss a new deal, but felt that he still had three or four more seasons left to play at the highest level.
He is certainly the type of midfielder United need to sign this summer, especially with the club heading back into the Champions League and likely to start next season as third favourites in the Premier League betting to win the title.
Schweinsteiger is a Champions League and World Cup winner, has won the Bundesliga eight times with Bayern and isn’t a player who goes missing in the big games. He also offers the versatility to play in a couple of positions in midfield.
He can play as a holding midfielder or in a more advanced role. Given the reliance on Michael Carrick, who will be 34 a few days before Schweinsteiger turns 31, United need another option in the anchor role. Daley Blind doesn’t offer either the passing range of Carrick or the adeptness at breaking up attacks.
Equally, United need to carry a greater goal threat from midfield. Schweinsteiger is capable of scoring double figures if he is able to play a full season. And that would probably the big concern at the moment.
Schweinsteiger underwent ankle surgery in November 2013 and then he missed much of the first half of this season due to a knee problem. That has ensured he has started fewer than half of Bayern’s games in the Bundesliga. Given the injury problems which have afflicted Carrick this season, United can’t afford to sign another midfielder who is only available half the time.
But, if his knee problem is not a lasting issue, then Schweinsteiger is just the type of midfielder Van Gaal likes. The United boss has spoken before about how he converted Schweinsteiger into a central midfielder from a position on the left, and also about how much the player enjoyed the switch. It is clear that Schweinsteiger buys into Van Gaal’s ‘philosophy’.
Convincing Bayern to sell Schweinsteiger may be much easier than trying to persuade them to part with Thomas Muller, for example, and there have been suggestions he doesn’t fully suit the way Pep Guardiola wants his team to play.
If United are given encouragement that Schweinsteiger is willing to move, and can be assured – at least as much as possible – of his long-term fitness, then it’s an opportunity they can’t pass up.
To sign a player of Schweinsteiger’s calibre and pedigree for £10million, and potentially get three or four years out of him, is the sort of bargain which doesn’t come around very often.