On July 13, Manchester United signed one of the most decorated names in football history in the form of German powerhouse Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Amid concerns of his age and his recent injury record (which has been compounded by a minor niggle on tour), there were a few initial doubts about whether the former Bayern Munich player would be a success at United. I’m confident these doubts will disappear very quickly.
Since the departures of Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand in the summer of 2014, the Old Trafford dressing room has been chronically short of leaders, despite the continued presence of new captain Wayne Rooney.
Fans have been crying out for a better spine of the side, a group of individuals who will lead from the front and instil an infectious personality into their team mates. Look around the world of football and you’ll see few better than Schweinsteiger.
The man has won everything. From multiple Bundesliga titles to the Champions League, a treble winning season and he even topped it off with a World Cup last year. Make no mistake, he was no passenger in that success.
This winning mentality and experience that itself oozes leadership and will rejuvenate United in the same way Louis van Gaal‘s arrival did last summer.
Picture some of last season’s defeats. The 1-0 to Chelsea, the loss to West Brom by the same scoreline and 3-0 at the hands of Roberto Martinez’s Everton.
Do you think Bastian would’ve stood for any of the side letting those games slip away like that, let alone allowing it to happen again later in the season? Whether it was by instilling fear into his opponents or galvanising his team-mates, I think we all know the answer to that.
Then comes the question of his age. At 30, Schweinsteiger arrives past it, not good enough and on the way out, right? Wrong.
Let’s look at Liverpool’s new signing James Milner, he’ll turn 30 this season, but isn’t he lauded as a smart buy by Brendan Rodgers? Not to mention Arsenal bringing in 33-year-old Petr Cech or City signing a certain 36 year old Frank Lampard last summer.
The point is that age, after all, is just a number. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough has always been the mantra at United and in this case, if you’re good enough, you’re young enough.
The experience that Bastian brings is invaluable too but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that this is compensating for any lack of ability, the German arrives as a starting 11 player regardless of how old he is.
Wayne Rooney: “Bastian Schweinsteiger has been fantastic since he arrived and he talks a lot with the younger players which really helps them.”
Another quality that cannot be underestimated is his significance to the young players in the squad, something that has already been demonstrated since his arrival. On Monday the midfielder declared: “I have seen a lot of young players in my career and I have to say that these young players [Lingard, Wilson, Pereira] are very, very good.”
Just picture being a young player trying to break into the first-team, struggling for game time and maybe confidence too, and then hearing Schweinsteiger say that.
It’d be nice coming from any player but with all due respect it’s somewhat more motivational coming from Schweinsteiger than, let’s say, Jonny Evans.
Seeing a winner like that train, talk, play – you’d be foolish to think the young players at the club won’t lap it up and follow his lead. Success breeds success.
He’s the first German to ever play for United and to quote Ed Woodward: “What a German!”.
His appearances in both midfield, training and the changing room will do wonders for the club. Knowing Van Gaal already will be a big help too as he’ll become a trusted adversary for the Dutchman to pass on messages between players and coaches, and simply put, he’s a brilliant addition.
Old Trafford will no doubt reap the rewards of a clever, and bargain, signing for years to come. Watch out Premier League for the signing of the summer, Bastian Schweinsteiger.