Michael Carrick was arguably Manchester United’s most influential player last season; the dips in form during the long spells he spent out with injury proved how pivotal he was for Louis van Gaal’s team.
United’s over-reliance on the seasoned midfielder proved costly – no wonder Louis van Gaal is looking for a replacement for the United player he rates so highly.
As usual, United have been linked with pretty much every single midfielder in the world. However, the two names that make the most sense are Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.
It has been reported than Van Gaal’s pursuit of Schneiderlin depends on the outcome of his attempts to sign Schweinsteiger – but it should really be the other way round.
A World Cup and Champions League winner, Schweinsteiger would obviously be the more high-profile signing of the two; another ‘marquee’ signing to add to Woodward’s CV.
He hasn’t just won trophies – he has led Bayern Munich and the German national team to them over the years. His performance in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina will go down as one of the best individual performances in the history of the tournament.
His good relationship with Louis van Gaal is well documented. It was the Dutchman who switched him to centre midfield, and, since then, he has proven himself as one of the best midfielders in the world.
‘Schweini’ was reportedly close to joining the United in 2010 – when the very same Van Gaal was his manager, but he decided to commit his future to Bayern Munich, signing a new long-term contract with the Bavarian giants. It would have been great if the move had gone through then, but now, it would be a few years too late.
Although his experience, tactical intelligence and leadership skills would be invaluable additions to a team still going through transition, the fact that he is 30 years old means he could struggle to adapt to the rhythm and physicality of the Premier League.
Even if he does well, Schweinsteiger is only four years younger than Carrick – meaning United would soon be looking for his replacement too.
Although Schneiderlin’s career has been less glamorous than his German counterpart’s, it has been similarly impressive.
The Frenchman has been at the heart of Southampton’s astonishing five-year rise from League One to Europa League, having been a starter for the Saints since the 2008-09 season.
An exemplar of Southamptons’s tradition of raising young talents into world-class players, Schneiderlin has more than proven himself in the Premier League.
His statistics suggest he has become one of the most complete midfielders around; last season, Schneiderlin made 3.25 tackles and 2.59 interceptions every 90 minutes in the Premier League, and completed 89% of his passes successfully.
His skills are matched by his mentality and character. Last season, Southampton won 1-0 at Old Trafford, and held Chelsea to a 1-1 tie at Stamford Bridge; his performance in both matches was evidence that he’s ready to be battling for midfield dominance against the best players in world football.
At the age of 25 – the perfect age to make a move to a top club – he is still young; he could lead United’s midfield for years to come.
A perfect but unlikely scenario would see both Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger join United this summer. However, if it had to be only one of them, it would have to be the former rather than the latter. Schweinsteiger’s record is formidable, but, given the right platform, Schneiderlin could be on the verge of something special.