Every Manchester United fan have their favourite as to who they would like to see brought in to the United midfield to replace the almost irreplaceable Paul Scholes, and I’m sure Sir Alex Ferguson also has his favourite for the job too, especially as it is such a vital role in the United team. There are only a handful of player to choose from however – a select few players who are considered to have the quality needed to take on the task of pulling the strings in a Manchester United side fighting to be the best in the world.
Two players who are said to be close to the top of Manchester United’s wish-list are Wesley Sneijder and Bastian Schweinsteiger – two players who are very close in age, and most probably soon to reach the peak of their footballing careers. Both are attack minded midfield players, who are both proven on the world stage, playing their football over the past nine years with the biggest football clubs in the Europe. But which player would be the most suitable of choices for Manchester United? In this article, I will compare the two in an attempt to discover the answer to this very expensive question.
Lets start with the basics. Wesley Sneijder is an attacking midfielder and turned 27 last month. He is the product of the highly successful youth academy of Ajax, which has produced previous footballing legends including Johan Cruijff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, and the former Arsenal striker, Dennis Bergkamp, so we know that Sneijder has been taught well. In fact, the philosophy of the Ajax youth academy is to play attractive, offensive-minded, creative, fast and fair football – preferably far away from the own goal on the opponents’ half, which is very much Manchester United’s style at times.
Bastian Schweinsteiger can play in a similar position to Sneijder – centrally, but has been deployed primarily on the wings throughout his career, though it is this versatility that marks him out as a top player, and he is soon to turn 27. The German international has been at Bayern Munich ever since he turned professional in 2002, after graduating from the Bayern youth set-up. Whilst Manchester United have never seen a German play a role in their side, they have had a Bayern Munich youth academy graduate in Owen Hargreaves grace the midfield – perhaps as he has now left, United will bring in another in Schweinsteiger.
Both players had very successful World Cups last year, playing in the central role that United are looking for in their team, but Sneijder and Schweinsteiger have been the creative forces behind their respective clubs for a while. Statistics are not what football is all about, but looking at the stats for these two players over the years proved some interesting viewing.
Conveniently, the two midfielder’s began their careers in football in the same season – 2003/04, – so there is a more balanced comparison when it comes to their appearances, goals and assists. Over the past nine seasons, Schweinsteiger has played the more games, with 348 appearances to Sneijder’s 325, however, you may take into consideration Sneijder’s moves to different clubs, as well as his period at Real Madrid, when he wasn’t always a regular starter.
In the goals scored section, there is one clear winner in Wesley Sneijder, as the 83 career goals for the Dutchman is more than double that of the German’s 40. But goals were not Schweinsteiger’s game for a long period in which he was played on the wing, as he was the creator instead, and as a result has managed 72 career assists compared to Sneijder’s 19 (although assists in 5 years at Ajax have for some reason not been recorded).
Now, how do they fit in Manchester United’s side? As mentioned before, they both occupy that central midfield role – an advanced role, similar to that of Paul Scholes earlier in his career. Schweinsteiger played in a more defensive role in the World Cup – a holding role, which again emphasises his versatility, but with United, he would be more likely to be deployed in a more advanced role, which would see him play as a classic box-to-box midfielder.
Sneijder is a great passer of the ball, and someone with a very quick thinking and visionary mind on the football pitch. He can play with both feet which is a useful, and unpredictable advantage to have, and as mentioned before, he scores goals from the midfield, as well as creates them, mainly thanks to his set piece delivery and fierce shot.
Both players are known for their stunning set-piece deliveries – particularly Schweinsteiger, whose direct play also showcases some thunderous shots from long range, which are incredibly accurate. Sneijder also shares the powerful shot, and both are also very energetic and most importantly, creative.
What of their chances to join? Well, Schweinsteiger, my favourite for the job would apparently cost in the region of £30 million, on wages of around £150,000 per week, which is certainly manageable for United, however it is his recently signed contract, running until 2016 which marks any deal quite unlikely.
Sneijder on the other hand has by no means committed himself fully to Inter Milan, and the Inter manager has recently told of the possibility of Sneijder leaving in the summer, saying that he may soon become available for transfer. The Dutchman would cost a whopping £35-40 million plus apparent £200,000 a week in wages, which over four years could end up totalling over £80 million.
While Schweinsteiger seems to me the most natural of replacements for Paul Scholes, Sneijder is certainly both the fans favourite and the media’s favourite, with constant rumours linking him to a move to United. It is very difficult to believe much you read at this time of the year, but it does seem a certainty that United will be recruiting a new midfielder. Whether it be Samri Nasri from Arsenal, Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern or Wesley Sneijder from Inter, we will just have to wait and see.