Jose Mourinho has reacted to Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s decision to leave for MLS side Chicago Fire, admitting that he was wrong to banish the German from the first team over the summer.
Schweinsteiger, following an injury-hit debut season at Old Trafford that saw him manage just 18 appearances, was consigned to the reserves upon Mourinho’s arrival.
He was later reintroduced to the first team and made his first appearance of the season during a 4-1 win over West Ham United in the League Cup but left for the U.S. last week having only managed just one start all season.
And Mourinho, speaking at a press conference, delivered a heartfelt message to the 32-year-old in the wake of his departure, expressing his regret for the way his time in Manchester unfolded.
“He’s in the category of players that I feel sorry for something I did to him,” he said. “I don’t want to speak about him as a player, as a player I would or would not buy. I want to speak about him as a professional, as a human being.
“It was the last thing I told him before he left – ‘I was not right with you once. I have to be right to you now.’ So when he was asking me to let him leave, I had to say yes, you can leave because I did it once, I cannot do it twice.
“So I feel sorry for the first period with him, he knows that, I am happy that he knows, because I told him. I will miss a good guy, a good professional, a very good influence in training.
“So I could not stop him to go, even though I know we have so many matches and probably would need him for a few matches or a few periods. But I had to let him go and now publicly wish him and his wife a very happy life in Chicago.
“I do regret it, yeah.
“I would let him be in the squad. I know that at that moment we had too many players, if you remember we had many players in these doubtful situations: Schneiderlin, Depay, Andreas Pereira, Tyler Blackett, James Wilson.
“We had a huge squad in the beginning but after knowing him as a person and a professional and the way he was respecting my decisions as a manager, yes I regret it and it is no problem for me to admit it, because I have told him.”
Mourinho’s thinking behind Schweinsteiger’s removal from the squad felt harsh at first – cynical, even – but you could see why the Portuguese made such a cut-throat decision: he wanted midfielders with raw energy and power, capable of providing a physical presence over a long period of time. And the German, for all his class, simply didn’t fit the bill.
On reflection, however, removing such an experienced, committed figure from the first team was a poor error of judgement on the behalf of Mourinho, and he knows it. The Special One doesn’t often admit to being wrong; when he does, therefore, you know he means every bit of it.
Schweinsteiger may have failed to have an impact on the pitch this season, but his attitude on the training ground was exemplary. Having such a presence there from the start could have been hugely beneficial.