Morgan Schneiderlin couldn’t really have started his Manchester United career any better. Just five minutes into his first experience in the famous red shirt, the Frenchman netted the goal which saw United beat Club America in Seattle to begin their 2015 summer tour with a win.
He wouldn’t be waiting too long for his maiden competitive goal either, turning home Chris Smalling’s chested pass at the far post to give United an early lead in their 3-0 win at Everton in October 2015. It was a goal which helped to underline his growing importance to Louis van Gaal’s side as the Reds climbed back up to third in the Premier League table.
But, as United get set to return to Goodison Park on Sunday, Schneiderlin’s status at the club could be described as anything but important. With just 11 minutes of league action to his name this term, the former Southampton man is struggling to have any say in United’s stop-start campaign thus far and has been dealt a new blow this week.
Having been included in the 18 for the EFL Cup clash with West Ham United at Old Trafford on Wednesday, Schneiderlin was not called upon by Jose Mourinho and his number two Rui Faria, acting on Jose’s behalf due to a touchline ban. Nothing new there. However, the late introduction of Bastian Schweinsteiger was a sure-fire sign that Schneiderlin’s future looks unlikely to be at United.
A player who featured 39 times in his first campaign at the club and was a key part of the midfield under Van Gaal has suddenly found himself fall so far down the pecking order that Schweinsteiger got the nod ahead of him midweek. This is the same Bastian Schweinsteiger who was forced to train with academy products when Mourinho insisted he had no future at the club, then reverted to practice alone before eventually being promoted to first-team training in order to make up the numbers, as his manager put it.
What does it say about Schneiderlin’s hopes of clinging onto a sense of worth at Old Trafford that Schweinsteiger is now seen as a more viable alternative? Even if the German’s reintroduction was nothing more than a five-minute cameo to put him in the shop window, what of Schneiderlin’s need to play minutes? The 27-year-old also needs to be playing football, whether it be to re-stake a claim for a United shirt or to attract admiring glances from elsewhere.
As it is, he has seemingly caught the attention of managers and moneymen away from Old Trafford even if Mourinho himself hasn’t noticed the quality that Schneiderlin has to offer. West Bromwich Albion and Sunday’s opponents Everton are among the clubs beginning to show an interest in the United outcast as the January transfer window begins to move into view. And it should be no surprise that he is courted by clubs looking to push themselves into regular contention in the upper echelons of the Premier League table.
At Southampton, Schneiderlin proved his position as one of the English league’s most capable midfield ball-players, and his successes on the south coast remain recent enough for potential new employers to trust in his quality despite his malaise in Manchester. There is talk that the Toffees could offer as much as £20 million for the artistic Schneiderlin, and if United are intent on not using him then such a return – just £5m shy of their own outlay back in June 2015 – would have to be considered as a fair trade-off.
Schneiderlin was always going to find it tough finding his niche at United. Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera are big crowd favourites, Schweinsteiger was a huge name coming in from one of the world’s biggest clubs in Bayern Munich, while even Marouane Fellaini provided a distinctly alternative approach in the centre of the park. And, since Mourinho sanctioned the world-record signing of Paul Pogba, Schneiderlin has only found the going more difficult in the battle for a first-team spot.
With great ability on the ball, a clever footballing brain and the ability to close opponents down well when not in possession, Schneiderlin could be an asset in almost any Premier League midfield. Unfortunately for him, United’s bloated engine room no longer has room for him.