Connect in the back of the net

When it comes to the signing and subsequent departure of Bastian Schweinsteiger from Manchester United, however, it is hard to determine whether Louis Van Gaal or Jose Mourinho made a fundamental error.

Now that the German veteran has joined MLS side Chicago Fire, however, it is worth asking whether the Portuguese has dropped the ball by treating Schweinsteiger poorly and letting him go or if Van Gaal was wrong to sign him in the first instance?

 

The Schweinsteiger Conundrum: A Man Who Polarised Opinion in England

Given that English clubs spent a total of £870 million two summers ago, the £16 million capture of Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich represented something of a coup for United.

After all, the midfielder had won the World Cup less than a year before, while his experience, control and range of passing made him ideally suited to Van Gaal’s possession-based game.

Despite this, there were hardly envious glances been cast by United’s EPL rivals when he arrived.

This may be because of the German’s chronic knee problems, which had compelled then Bayern manager Pep Guardiola to deem his captain surplus to requirements.

This, coupled with the fact that Schweinsteiger was past his best and arguably unsuited to the rigours and physical demands of the Premier League, meant that his signing represented a significant risk.

His first season seemed to dissect these two schools of thought, as Schweinsteiger performed steadily without ever being truly spectacular or proving his critics wrong.

As a result, Mourinho was clearly convinced that the German was surplus to his own requirements when he arrived last summer, as he cast Schweinsteiger aside and even relegated him to training with the youth side during pre-season.

 

The Changing of the Tide: Was Jose in the Wrong?

The relatively harsh treatment of the German, and more pointedly his positive reaction, seemed to mark a turning point in the eyes of many.

Enduringly optimistic in person and dedicated on the training pitch, Schweinsteiger gradually began to curry favour with Mourinho, with the Portuguese gradually relenting in his approach and affording the German some game time.

His status as a cult icon among fans was also assured, with his fleeting cameos drawing standing ovations and a huge amount of encouragement from the stands.

In fact, Schweinsteiger’s acrobatic goal in the 4-0 rout of Wigan in the FA Cup almost took the roof off Old Trafford, which in hindsight was fitting given that it was the last time that he appeared in a United shirt.

After United sold Morgan Schneiderlin to Everton in January, it seemed that Mourinho was set to retain Schweinsteiger and leverage his experience for the EPL and Europa League run-in.

Unfortunately, his decision to ostracise the German upon his arrival counted against him, as Schweinsteiger politely requested a move so that he could play first team football more regularly.

Jose had little choice to comply, although he later admitted that he had erred in his initial treatment of the World Cup winner.

Of course, Mourinho’s actions were indicative of a decisive and ruthless coach, and one who was determined to remove any players who might remain loyal to Louis Van Gaal (these two had worked together diligently at Bayern Munich).

The Portuguese has now admitted that he was hasty and ill-judged in equal measure, however, and that his decision has cost the squad a potentially valuable member in the second half of the season.

 

The Bottom Line: A Question of Fault on Both Sides?

While Mourinho was wrong in his treatment of Schweinsteiger and the short-term impact that this has had on the side, the question that remains is whether his decision was right purely from a football perspective?

Certainly Schweinsteiger struggled during his time in Manchester, both with injuries and a failure to fully adapt to the rigours of the English game.

With hindsight, Van Gaal was therefore potentially wrong to sign him, forcing Mourinho to make a firm decision about whether or not the German could deliver as a consistent first-team member.

Ultimately, Mourinho’s famous ruthless streak let him down in the case of Schweinsteiger, but any negative impact of the German’s departure will be short-term at most.

Overall, he may have made the right decision for the team going forward, particularly as the Portuguese looks to create a powerful and dynamic side in his own image.

 

Written by Lewis Humphries

Follow Lewis on Twitter @LewisRHumphries

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