Three reasons why Morgan Schneiderlin should join Man United
Paul McNamara proposes three reasons why Southampton star Morgan Schneiderlin should join Manchester United
Time to go
Seven years after he arrived at Southampton, a green teenager with scant first-team experience with relegated French Ligue 1 side Strasbourg, Morgan Schneiderlin has earned his stripes in English football. There is no great history of players landing in England from foreign climes to ply their trade in the lower-tiers, before going on to forge a reputation that wins them a significant step up the ladder. Following his contribution to Southampton’s back-to-back promotions, which saw the club regain their Premier League status in 2012, seven years after they dropped out of the top-flight, Schneiderlin could be about to blaze a trail. Unlike Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Calum Chambers and, before that trio, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale, the Obernai born man doesn’t have the ties to his club that come with progressing through its academy. With the possible exception of Lallana, though, all of those ex-Saints departed St Mary’s before having anything like the influence on their boyhood team’s fortunes that Schneiderlin has exerted since the day he opted to sign with Southampton, in preference to bitter rivals – and then Premier League – Portsmouth. With every step up, first through the divisions, and then into the Premier League’s upper echelons, this extravagantly talented player has responded accordingly. His finest performances in the Saints’ engine room last season came away in fixtures at Manchester United and Chelsea, games that yielded a combined four points for his side. Shielding his back-four expertly, and imposing his expansive, probing range of passing on the action, Schneiderlin was pivotal to Southampton’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in January and the 1-1 draw in west London two months later. Those twin-displays bore all the hallmarks of a first-rate footballer; one who would be right at home dictating terms from the centre of the park for Manchester United.
A hero in the making
Supporters of plenty of clubs make a virtue of their adulation for their no9’s, the men who take on prime responsibility for taking the fight to the opposition – and for putting the ball in the back of the net. At United, they treasure their centre-midfielders. Bryan Robson, all-action, multi-faceted doyen of the position is a bona fide club legend. Roy Keane replaced England’s ‘Captain Marvel’ in Sir Alex Ferguson’s midfield in the early 1990’s, the Irishman then going on to act as the spearhead for the Red Devils’ utter domination of the English game. Even going back to United’s first European Cup triumph in 1968, England’s 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles was the beating heart of that side, central to the exploits of the dynamic unit that overcame Benfica 4-1 in a Wembley final. During their relatively fallow last two years, it is the spine of United’s team that has looked totally bereft of its former strength; not least in those pivotal central midfield spots. Across the last campaign Louis van Gaal’s side invariably improved, locating some coherence and measure of control, with the presence of Michael Carrick. Nevertheless, the ex-Tottenham player’s patchy injury record makes his availability something of a hit-and-miss affair. Furthermore, at 33 and never the most mobile of footballers, Carrick’s powers are on the wane. Whereas the Geordie is wont to drift to the periphery when the stakes are at their highest, the action at its most intense, Schneiderlin grows with the gravity and ferocity of the contest. There is a gaping hole waiting to be filled in Van Gaal’s team. Twenty-five years-old, burning with ambition and with his own game evolving at a fair lick, Schneiderlin is the man to plug it.
If United come calling, there is generally only one answer. Despite their recent slip from the pinnacle of English football, that fact holds true now, as much as it ever did. The miserable 2013/2014 season suffered at Old Trafford under David Moyes will guard against any complacency creeping into the United hierarchy, any time soon. United’s intention to take a short-cut back to the top was laid bare when Van Gaal took the helm, with millions of pounds being shelled out to entice the likes of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera, Radamel Falcao, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind to the then non-Champions League participant Red Devils. The Dutchman’s recruits enjoyed varying fortunes, from the quietly efficient Herrera down to the misfiring and since departed Falcao. No matter. Those who flourish, stay. Any incomer who doesn’t meet Van Gaal’s exacting demands will be on his bike. This is a club bent on quickly putting itself right back in the frame for Premier League titles – and it has the cash to make that a realistic aim. It is certainly difficult to envisage United missing the Champions League cut again in the near future. When he chose Southampton over Portsmouth, Schneiderlin cited the opportunities to play that he would receive at St Mary’s as being a chief factor in his decision. In the intervening years, which have included a full French debut in June last year, and his inclusion in his national team’s squad to go to the World Cup in Brazil later that month, there has been no let-up in the drive that brought the teenaged Schneiderlin across the channel. United offers its players the chance to play in the biggest matches and to challenge for major trophies. The club’s matches are viewed the world over. What’s more, simply pulling on that famous red shirt lifts a player’s profile exponentially, in an instant. With a home European Championship to come next summer, a move to Old Trafford for Schneiderlin would come with the sort of precision timing he applies to his astutely threaded passes, and snappy tackles and interceptions; attributes that have made him one of this summer’s most coveted footballers.