According to reports, it seems certain that Manchester United will sign at least one of Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger or Sergio Ramos this summer, as Louis Van Gaal prepares for his second season in charge of the English Premier League club.
The Dutch manager was set to retire from professional football before joining United, so that he could enjoy the benefits of family life away from the game. Instead, he will likely reach a milestone of three decades in professional management whilst an Old Trafford employee.
Van Gaal has already spoken about falling in love with the culture surrounding the game in England, praising the patience and loyalty of the fans and clearly relishing the opportunity to work in the world’s most popular and intensely scrutinized league.
But the 63 year-old will be desperate to preserve a career record that has seen him win a league title at every club he has managed. To do so at a club as steeped in history as United and particularly given the spectacular fall from grace experienced under his predecessor David Moyes, could arguably be his greatest achievement.
This is what makes the links to Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Ramos so interesting: it reflects Van Gaal’s burning desire to wrest power in the English game away from Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, whilst supplanting the growing threat of Arsenal and Manchester City.
Ramos and Schweinsteiger would make for headline-grabbing acquisitions, both being highly decorated players. They have each won World Cups, European Cups and enjoy icon status at two of the biggest sporting institutions on the planet in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.
By comparison, Schneiderlin is yet to win any silverware and has been only a recent revelation at Southampton, a club that has enjoyed an eye-catching return to the English Premier League after time spent in the lower tiers of English football.
His importance to Southampton’s resurgence was recognized by France manager Didier Deschamps, who rewarded the 25 year-old by taking him to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
A reported price tag of £25 million pales in comparison to the valuation of Ramos, who could cost United between £40-70 million depending on which newspaper or internet article you read. Schweinsteiger, meanwhile, would command considerable wages in light his own illustrious CV.
The decision Van Gaal makes over which player to sign will give insight into the nature of the project he is building in Manchester.
Both Ramos and Schweinsteiger are ready built, battle-hardened veterans who will bring leadership quality and experience to a squad that seemed brittle despite massive investment at the beginning of last season.
Schweinsteiger is a player Van Gaal particularly trusts. They worked together with great success during the latter’s spell in charge of Bayern Munich, where Van Gaal convinced the wide midfielder to move into the middle of the park.
“Schweinsteiger never played there, so after two weeks of training sessions and two matches, he felt he could do more than ever,” the former Ajax boss told FIFA.com back in 2013.
Van Gaal all but admitted that the manner in which United faded last season – unable to maintain a title challenge – was the result of his players being unfamiliar and fatigued with his notoriously rigorous training methods. Schweinsteiger’s career was transformed by those very methods and in that respect he is the perfect candidate to walk into the current United squad and lead by example.
Schneiderlin, meanwhile, is a player who needs to be moulded and re-educated. He is five years younger than Schweinsteiger and about to enter a crucial phase of his professional career.
He represents an investment for the future, rather than a solution for the immediate present: there is no guarantee that he will be as effective as he has been at Southampton (Maroune Fellaini’s gradual adjustment after moving from Everton is testament to this).
Given Van Gaal has previously flirted with retirement, if he were to sign Schweinsteiger it might suggest that he is eager to win silverware immediately, rather than set himself for a long haul in Manchester. The same logic could be applied to a potential move for Ramos.
There is no doubt that both of these players would have an immediate and positive impact at United, potentially inspiring the club to silverware. Their reputation as winners is, after all, the reason they are so highly valued.
Schneiderlin however has youth on his side and it would be fascinating to see his brand of midfield play fostered by a club with a reputation for expansive, aggressive football.
Whether Van Gaal – or his employers – has the patience and energy for such a ploy is the pertinent question.
Written by Chris Paraskevas
Follow Chris on Twitter @Cparaskevas
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