When Louis Van Gaal bemoaned his embryonic Manchester United’s lack of balance after achieving the bare minimum expectation of a return to Champions League football in his first season, many a fan would doubtless have been hailing the signing of arguably one of the in-form Premier League central midfielders, an established one at that, then Southampton lynchpin Morgan Schneiderlin. Yet, much of United’s late surge into the top four last year was down to Michael Carrick enjoying a purple patch in the middle of the park. His consistency levels were arguably at their optimum in a United shirt, the seasoned head of a raw team in transition. The reassuring trend of Carrick dictating proceedings from midfield was torn up tangibly on one standout occasion though. Regular readers may remember a piece off the back of United securing Schneiderlin’s signature, championing the French midfielder and lauding United’s business, recalling a truly dominant display which majorly disrupted Van Gaal’s penchant for controlled possession.
Schneiderlin was at the heart of a perfect away performance from Ronald Koeman’s men, getting in United’s faces, being neat and tidy in possession, displaying a nice array of passes, and being physically imposing, strong in the tackle and in the air. Southampton went on to win the game 1-0, largely down to an impregnable organisation with Schneiderlin at the forefront. The description of ‘complete footballer’ might be taking my soft spot to ridiculous exaggerations, but it cannot be too far off, can it? His consistency for the Saints and subsequent reward of getting a lucrative transfer to United was testament to his qualities. This was the midfield all-rounder United had been shouting out for — enforcing in the mould of iconic skipper Roy Keane is stretching into the hyperbolic, but certainly an Owen Hargreaves Mark II, whose United career was desperately curtailed through a catalogue of injuries.
For whatever reason, the Frenchman has been glaringly overlooked by his manager at times this campaign. He was bought seemingly tailor made for occasions like the Emirates, where the mantra would be on keeping it tight. Instead, a Dad’s Army duo of Carrick and Schweinsteiger were run ragged as United were blitzed during an opening thirty minute horror show. The former Southampton man is not the flavour of the month with sections of supporters but, much like his play, the greater part of his work goes under the radar, in large part down to his role in the side. Schneiderlin was restored to the side for the vital derby last time out and his fantastic display hopefully acted as an eye-opener to fans and manager alike.
Marouane Fellaini attracts pelters as sizeable as his afro, his continually mystifying place in the Manchester United side unjustified by cold, hard facts. A 34% win percentage with the Belgian elected to start ahead of Schneiderlin is a perfect illustration of how United have struggled without the Frenchman. Going into the derby I was, for wont of a better word, more relaxed with Schneiderlin brought in and Fellaini benched. The ideal midfielder for a game of that magnitude, Schneiderlin, akin to his impressive Southampton days, controlled the midfield, showing bite, organisation, and a calmness in the pass that was critical to a very good United performance. His control in the engine room allowed United to soak up heavy City pressure and attack intently on the counter.
All the attention was rightly thrust upon the young shoulders of striking sensation and local lad, Marcus Rashford, but Schneiderlin’s performance was a key factor in the discipline and organisation which managed to secure a vital clean sheet and protect the lead. Last Sunday could be the making of Morgan Schneiderlin in a Manchester United shirt, even if he has not been fully appreciated by Louis Van Gaal. You could put safe money on the next manager (*cough* Mourinho) valuing him a bit more, having made players like Makelele and Matic cornerstones of previous title winning sides.
Morgan Schneiderlin will, almost by default, go under the radar throughout his United career. It’s time for a little appreciation.