Bastian Schweinsteiger has been made to train with the Manchester United reserves by Jose Mourinho – a demotion deemed so despicable that a veritable army of supporters have mustered to publically defend Schweinsteiger’s honour.
Bastian’s older brother and Bayern coach Tobi Tweeted the words “No respect” in solidarity with his sibling, his boss, club president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was also quoted as saying:
“I could hardly believe it. One or two players are going to think long and hard in future about whether they want to go to such a club. Nothing like that has ever happened at Bayern Munich.”
(Mario Gotze might disagree, but that’s neither here nor there).
A Slovakian lawyer even threw his tuppence in, claiming Mourinho should be jailed for his “bullying” treatment of Schweinsteiger. There’s his fifteen minutes of fame well earned, but what’s really going on?
From what I can gather from newspaper hearsay and snippets of information, the Schweinsteiger situation evolved like this:
Mourinho informed the German that he wouldn’t be part of his plans for the upcoming season and that he should find another club. By all accounts, Bastian said he didn’t want to leave United, which made things more than a little awkward. Jose told Bastian to train with the reserves and to move his belongings from the first team lockers to the second team area, presumably to force Schweinsteiger further towards the exit door, figuratively speaking….I’m not sure whose lockers are closest to the exit door at Carrington.
On the face of it, somebody like Bastian Schweinsteiger deserves better than the old “train with reserves” scolding. The lack of respect shown to a highly decorated legend of the game is what seems to be irking most onlookers. His standing in the game should demand a certain level of treatment, right? Under these circumstances, I would tend to disagree.
When I talk about circumstances, I’m referring to the ins and outs of Schweinsteiger’s first and most probably last season at United. Van Gaal took a gamble in signing the injury prone Germany captain last summer. His arrival excited fans – I mean of course it did, here was an iconic figure who had won everything in the game and was still just 30 years old. A few weeks after his signing was confirmed, it was revealed that his transfer fee was far lower than first estimated, closer to £8m than the reported £18m. More good news.
But that’s more or less where the positives ended. When the euphoria of signing Basitan F*cking Schweinsteiger (or BFS as his was christened on United forums) subsided, the reality of the actual player behind the name and reputation was an enormous let down.
In his 13 Premier League starts and 5 substitute appearances (yep, that’s how little he actually played), Schweinsteiger looked slow, sluggish and let’s be honest about it, downright overweight. Technically he offered some neat and tidy performances, but his lack of overall fitness was telling and equally damning.
Schweinsteiger roughly translates to “pig stable” in English, which was hilariously apt as we watched him waddle around the centre circle, drenched in meat sweats from what I can only stereotypically assume were the juices from the over-consumption of bratwurst.
Schweinsteiger played just 4 times for United in 2016, spending more time in Germany than England – something that caused considerable consternation among his teammates. The murmurings from Carrington were that Bastian was considered somewhat of a teacher’s pet and that he was given preferential treatment by Van Gaal, who wasn’t exactly a favourite with the players himself.
Some might argue that Schweinsteiger being away from the club while injured was no big deal. I mean, why not spend time in Germany if you cannot involve yourself in training or on match day? But being part of a team is much more than taking to the field. A big part of the reason behind signing Schweinsteiger was to draw on his experience to help and offer guidance to a young United squad short on leadership and character.
And while United struggled on the pitch in Manchester, Bastian was photographed enjoying himself off it in Munich. His only contribution to the team was usually a short post-game Tweet of support, which usually read more like someone paying lip service to fans rather than a genuine heartfelt message of camaraderie to his teammates.
Predictably when the club season ended, Schweinsteiger turned up for national team duty looking slim and athletic for Germany in Euro 2016, appearing in 5 of their 6 games during their run to the semi final.
If United fans’ suspicions about a lack of commitment to their cause needed any further confirmation, Bastian had provided all the evidence they needed in Deutschland white.
That apparent (or blatantly obvious to me) lack of commitment to United is the reason you won’t hear many of their fans grumbling about the latest developments at Carrington while the rest of the world think things smell funnier than Joachim Low’s fingers.
Given his historical Man Utd modus operandi, it would safe to guess that Schweinsteiger turned up full bellied and heavy legged for club training once again. Imagine what the rest of the players were thinking? Couple this with an enormous salary being earned over a previous season where he essentially phoned in sick from abroad and you are going to have a player on the receiving end of some serious resentment from his team mates. Is it any wonder why Jose wanted him away from the rest of the first team squad?
Could the situation have been handled more respectfully and with more class by Mourinho? Maybe Jose could have used a softer hand, but subtlety has never been one of Jose’s strong points. He wants to win and demands complete commitment from all of his players. When it comes down to it, Schweinsteiger put United a clear and distant second on his list of priorities last season, so maybe he is being treated with the same amount of respect as he has earned at Old Trafford.
by Simon Winter