On November 30, in an EFL Cup match against West Ham United, Bastian Schweinsteiger stepped onto the field at Old Trafford for the first time since March. Although Jose Mourinho was technically suspended, it is the first appearance for the German under Mourinho. The brief stint in the cup didn’t give Schweinsteiger much time to make an impact, but it certainly opened the door to many more questions regarding his future.
In August, it looked like the 32-year-old played his last match with Manchester United. Mourinho received plenty of criticism for banishing Schweinsteiger to the reserve team, which seemed like a ploy to force a sale. Schweinsteiger never found a suitor in Europe willing to pay his salary, so all he could do was wait, at least until January.
It’s now less than a month before the transfer window opens and Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the Premier League, but it sounds like Mourinho is beginning to change his mind about the midfielder.
Since the World Cup winner is still under contract for 18 months he holds the cards in determining his future according to Mourinho. Schweinsteiger’s professionalism shown through during his time with the reserves as he never stopped supporting or working to rejoin the club.
— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) November 30, 2016
Everything Schweinsteiger does publicly suggests he wants to stay in Manchester. He’s a professional athlete, however, and spending most of his time in the stands isn’t going to work for him. Schweinsteiger can either hope that Mourinho’s recent 180 is a sign that he’s back in the manager’s good graces or he has to start looking for a move, most likely to MLS at this point.
Schweinsteiger’s former employer, Uli Hoeneß, thinks he should be as vindictive as possible. Hoeneß recently said Schweinsteiger should make United pay until the last day of his contract while watching from afar and enjoying going to see his new wife’s tennis matches. Schweinsteiger is too much of a professional to do that, and he’s a competitor who wants to be on the field, not in the stands.
Hoeneß also suggests that Schweinsteiger should retire, rather than hop the Atlantic and play in the States. Despite reports that the Chicago Fire are willing to offer the German $16.5 million to play for them, Hoeneß would rather see Schweinsteiger come back to Munich for a testimonial before hanging up his boots. He added that “America simply isn’t an alternative for a player of his caliber.” There is some elitism in that statement, but that’s unsurprising for Hoeneß.
[link_box id=”23195″ site_id=”158″ layout=”link-box-third” alignment=”alignright”]All of these questions come back to the fact that Schweinsteiger is just looking for a place to play. He has the power in regards to where he might go, especially if the Chicago Fire really do have an offer on the table. However, whether or not he stays at United is all up to Mourinho.
This is the big question. Is the Portuguese manager ready to give Schweinsteiger a chance in the team, or was his recent comments more of a PR maneuver. Mourinho and the club have taken a hit on their treatment of the 32-year-old, and showing some good will towards him before letting him leaving in January is a good look. Much better than continuing to leave him out in the cold before selling him. Schweinsteiger has appeared to do everything right in this situation, while United have done the opposite.
The last thing to consider is if Schweinsteiger could actually help Mourinho. Hindsight is 20/20 but it’s hard to imagine Schweinsteiger doing as poorly against Everton as Marouane Fellaini did. He’s seen as an asset off the pitch as well. Schweinsteiger is a strong leader, and in a dressing room light on that sort of thing, that’s a role he can easily step into.
Mourinho isn’t going to start putting Schweinsteiger’s name first on the team sheet every week, but it’s beginning to look like the manager knows he misjudged Germany’s former captain. While Mourinho is too proud to admit he’s ever made a mistake, he seems ready to try to make amends. With January just around the corner, Schweinsteiger has to figure out if there is enough trust between the two. Otherwise, expect him to move on and begin the final stage of his career.