Where could Morgan Schneiderlin fit in at Manchester United?

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Speculation is high that Morgan Schneiderlin is set to sign for Manchester United this summer, with a possible transfer occurring as early as this week in a deal worth somewhere in the range of $37 million. Schneiderlin’s contract at Southampton expires in June 2017, and they don’t necessarily have to sell him yet, however, he has already made statements of his intent to leave. More recent reports have shown that Southampton are reluctant to let him leave and could stretch this saga well into the summer.

The 25-year-old French midfielder has been with Southampton since 2008, after beginning his career with Strasbourg. He has become a mainstay of this Saints squad since his arrival, which included back-to-back promotions from League One to the Championship and now the Premier League.

Despite this, Schneiderlin has yet to establish himself in the France national team and has just nine international caps, including one appearance in last summer’s 2014 World Cup. At this point in his career he is hoping to make a move to a big club, like Manchester United, to showcase his abilities and improve his chances of becoming a regular part of the French national squad. He has already made it clear that he wants to leave Southampton for a club with Champions League soccer.

This all leads to the question of where Schneiderlin would fit in with the current Manchester United squad. With United returning to play in the Champions League next season Schneiderlin should get chances to prove his worth, particularly with veternan Michael Carrick’s injury woes.

At the moment Carrick is the only true competition for Schneiderlin’s role as defensive midfielder. On a side note, it’s an interesting fact that United’s only loss last season with Carrick playing was against Schneiderlin’s Southampton.

The problem for Carrick has been his increasing difficulties with injuries. Last season Carrick played in just 18 matches for a total of 1457 minutes. This is the fewest he has played in a red shirt. By comparison Schneiderlin played in 26 games for a total of 2186 minutes. It should be noted that he also struggled with injuries during last season and missed 12 matches due to a recurring groin and knee complaints.

The addition of Schneiderlin provides additional cover for Carrick, which would be almost a necessity considering that United will now be playing in all competitions. During last season players like Wayne Rooney, Marouane Fellaini, Daley Blind, and Ander Herrera were tried out in the defensive midfield position, but none are nearly as capable as either Carrick or Schneiderlin.

The French enforcer is a dominating presence in midfield and could easily replace Carrick as their holding midfielder. Since neither player played a full 38 mathces last season it is better to look at stats in terms of per 90 minutes rather than totals for the season.

All stats come courtesy of Squawka.com:

Both players were prolific passers with Schneiderlin completing 89% of his passes and averaging 57 passes per 90 minutes, compared to Carrick at 90% and 59 passes per 90. However, Schneiderlin looks better as an offensive threat with almost one chance created per game and 0.8 key passes per 90. Carrick, on the other hand created 0.5 chances with 0.4 key passes per 90.

Where Schneiderlin really steps up and shows his value is in defense. It has been a long time since Manchester United have had a strong defensive minded midfielder and Schneiderlin would be a big step towards adding this. He averaged 3.25 tackles and 2.59 interceptions per 90 minutes. Michael Carrick won 1.17 tackles and 1.91 interceptions.

This is the area which divides opinion amongst United supporters. There are many who love to see Carrick spraying the ball around the pitch, but bemoan his lack of strength when closed down as well as his inability to put in a strong defensive effort. Having a player like Schneiderlin in the team would be a massive boost as a buffer in midfield. His ability to attack, with four goals last season, means that he is a threat going forward.

There are still many questions about how this Manchester United side would line up if they are able to land Schneiderlin. Having added Memphis Depay this team is looking bloated in midfield, particularly in the area of attacking midfielders.

If Louis van Gaal decides to revert to his preferred 4-3-3 formation, Depay could be played as a left attacking midfielder with Wayne Rooney in the middle of the attack and Angel Di Maria on the right. The remaining three midfielders could be any combination of Herrera, Juan Mata, Carrick or Schneiderlin.

Adding a player like Schneiderlin to this mix means that there is a stronger defensive presence in midfield to both provide support for the defense as well as allowing the likes of Mata, Herrera or Carrick to express themselves further forward.

Regardless of whether Manchester United can push this transfer through, this is an area of the pitch that sorely needs attention.

 

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