Manchester United’s 1-1 draw against West Ham United on Sunday, not much at all was out of the ordinary. United dominated proceedings, the opposition barely got a lick, but they still managed to drop points, mostly due to poor finishing, with help from poor refereeing decisions and goalkeepers playing at the top of their game. Standard stuff, for this season. But there is one exception, and that is the inclusion of Bastian Schweinsteiger in the matchday squad.
Since the start of the season, Schweinsteiger has not been involved in any of United’s matchday squads, and up until a month ago, he was training with the U23 team. He was brought back in to train with the first team, according to Jose Mourinho, because the team didn’t have enough players to do tactical work in training. But Schweinsteiger’s inclusion in the squad yesterday hints that that might not be it, and, despite only being an unused substitute, he is edging closer and closer to once again playing for United.
And if United are willing to give Schweinsteiger another chance there’s one match just around the corner that could be a good fit, and it’s Wednesday’s EFL Cup match against West Ham. With Michael Carrick possibly still out with an injury and Paul Pogba suspended, there is now an opening in the United midfield that Schweinsteiger can fill. The question is: should he be brought back in?
It does make sense for Schweinsteiger to make his return on that game. The EFL Cup is normally used by clubs to give youngsters or fringe players a run out in the first team, and with West Ham playing Arsenal at the weekend it’s likely that they might do the same, so giving Schweinsteiger a chance then isn’t as risky as most other games.
Also, Schweinsteiger is the closest United have to another Carrick. Both are experienced midfielders, with an intelligent eye for reading the game, and both are capable of dictating the tempo of a game, as well as being quality passers. Carrick has been one of United’s better performers this season, but his age means that his game time has had to be limited, so having Schweinsteiger back could make for a more seamless transition when Carrick needs a break.
But there is the rest of the midfield to consider United still have Morgan Schneiderlin, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Daley Blind, all of whom have yet to get regular playing time in midfield, and bringing Schweinsteiger would make it even harder for the trio to get opportunities, although Blind is also an option for the defence. And Schweinsteiger isn’t necessarily the most deserving of a chance. Schneiderlin was one of the best defensive midfielders in the league when he signed for United, and while he hasn’t performed to his old level, neither has Schweinsteiger. The difference is that Schneiderlin doesn’t yet have age going against him. Fosu-Mensah is an extremely talented young midfielder who has barely been given a go in midfield, and Blind, who in fairness is more likely to feature in defence for the game, also has the passing range and reading of the game, on top of some more solid defensive attributes
Although it would make sense for United to bring Schweinsteiger back into the fold before they really need him, or only to get his sharpness up for any suitors in January, United still have better options. Carrick’s injury is minor, and Pogba’s only out for one game. United have enough options in midfield as it is, and while bringing Schweinsteiger back as another option wouldn’t exactly hurt anyone, there is no urgent need for him to return to first team action.