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Manchester United’s signing of Morgan Schneiderlin last summer looked one of their better buys in recent years and certainly fell into the ‘low risk’ category given his consistently high level of performance for Southampton over the previous three seasons in the top flight. However the jury is still out to some extent at Old Trafford on the Frenchman, most significantly it would seem in the eyes of his manager, who has at times overlooked the midfielder in key games.
It was always likely to be a question of when and not if Schneiderlin would leave Southampton. Having helped the club recover from the depths of League One to flourishing in the Premier League, his influence on the team was obvious. However having seen most of the players who were key to that rise leave the club for supposedly bigger and better things, the midfielder was clearly getting frustrated that his much-muted move to a top of the table side had failed to materialise.
Schneiderlin deserves credit for a series of excellent performance in his final season at St Marys, despite his desire to leave and that form helped secure his move to Old Trafford. He has by no means looked out of place in the Man United midfield but the hope that he would control games from midfield on a consistent basis hasn’t quite materialised yet although that is not entirely all his fault.
At his best, Schneiderlin is the complete midfielder. He is an athletic figure with good pace and stamina and someone who can not only win the ball back for his team but also use it wisely and influence play at both ends of the pitch. In short he was exactly what the Red Devils needed and he made a bright start to his career at Old Trafford.
Impressive performance in the defensive midfield role helped United to clean sheets in all their opening three games and 7 points to go with it. However by September, contrary to most observers, Van Gaal publically criticised the Frenchman claiming he still had plenty to prove.
Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger were favoured in midfield for United’s first big game of the season against Liverpool and the Frenchman has only started 20 of the club’s 30 Premier League matches this term despite not suffering from any serious injury problems.
Not used to competition
Competition for places isn’t something Schneiderlin has ever really had to contend with on a regular basis at club level and perhaps his manager’s lack of faith in him has got to him at times. There have been some fine performances though, perhaps most notably his display in the 3-0 win at Everton when he was on the scoresheet and put in the kind of showing that suggested he was going to become an absolute key figure in the United midfield for the remainder of the season.
That hasn’t quite materialised though. Schneiderlin can take some of the blame for that and a series of poor displays in January including a below-par performance as United were beaten at home by his former club Southampton meant he along with many of his teammates were criticised for not performing to the required level.
Another notable low-point was the 1-0 defeat at West Brom last month when again he was initially overlooked by Van Gaal despite the long-term absence of Schweinsteiger. He came off the bench following the early sending off of Juan Mata, but struggled up against Claudio Yacob and former United man Darren Fletcher.
For all the talk of the need to replace Paul Scholes in the Manchester United midfield, the significance of the absence of Fletcher due to illness and his subsequent departure has at times been overlooked but was glaringly obvious on that day. Schneiderlin is of a similar style to Fletcher with perhaps a bit more quality on the ball and remains his most likely successor.
Keep the faith
Whether it is Van Gaal or another man who is in charge next season, they surely need to put more faith in the Frenchman who has too much to offer to be considered a bit-part player particularly in a side that has by no means flourished this season.
Perhaps Schneiderlin is yet to hit the heights of his time at Southampton but his manager must take some of the responsibility for that and with the likes of Carrick and Schweinsteiger the wrong side of 30 and perhaps no longer having the legs needed to succeed in the high tempo Premier League, United would be wise to put their faith in the Frenchman and make him one of the first names on their team-sheet rather than one of the last.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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