With Manchester Untied's long search for a midfielder coming to a head as of late with the long rumored interest in Marouane Fellaini having seemingly been solidified, many are discussing his potential role in the team. Fellaini would be a good buy for the Red Devils, as we have written previously, there are other possible choices for David Moyes. One name that is sometimes mentioned is that of Morgan Schneiderlin, the French defensive midfielder for Southampton Football Club. How would the potential signing of Morgan Schneiderlin work and how would it impact the club? Would he be worth it?
Performance from Last Season:
With the Saints' arrival into the Premier League last season, many were predicting that they would struggle in the league, and that the team would quickly be relegated and head back down into the Championship after a solitary year in the Premier League. It turned out to be quite the contrary, however, as they finished relatively comfortably in 14th place, despite having struggles initially in the season under the management of Mauricio Pochettino. One major factor in their success last season was the performances of Morgan Schneiderlin in the heart of the park, proving to be the engine of the Southampton team, so much so that he became third choice captain under Adam Lallana (captain) and Rickie Lambert (vice-captain), showing that he is truly a leader in the Southampton squad. In terms of statistics, he made a total of 36 appearances in the Premier League, all of them as starts, highlighting his importance in the team. Throughout all these appearances, his defensive statistics, especially for a midfielder, were simply outstanding. He would average 4.1 tackles per game, and 3.9 interceptions per game, winning the ball back at a ridiculous rate from the opposition, winning the ball back at an average of 8 times per game. For comparison's sake, the best player defensively for the Manchester United midfield was Michael Carrick, who won the ball back at an overall average of 4.4 times per game. This rate is higher than even Arturo Vidal, who won it back at an overall average of 6.4 times per game in the Serie A. He is able to do this while giving away fouls at a rate that is relatively minimal compared to the amount of times that he wins the ball back; Schneiderlin commits 1.8 fouls per game, a number which may initially seem rather high, is actually a rate similar to Michael Carrick's of fouls to balls won, about 1 foul for every 4 times the ball is won. In addition, Schneiderlin does not lose the ball that often as he is only dispossessed 0.9 times per game, and turns the ball over once a match, numbers that are very similar to the current midfielders at Manchester United, albeit a little bit higher.
One might assume that all this defensive work would mean that he lacks technical skill but Schneiderlin has enough to do good for the team. He averages 52.1 passes per game, all the while completing 85.2% of all the passes he attempts. This is a number very similar to that of Tom Cleverley, except that Cleverley is much more proficient in making the ball reach its intended target with him completing 90.2% of his passes. Then again, Cleverley wins the ball back at an overall rate of 2.4 times per game, while Schneiderlin does it 8 times per game. He can also pull off long passes when necessary, as highlighted by him completing an average of 2.9 long balls per game, as well as his 0.8 key passes per game, showing that he does have a creative side as well. He is not at all afraid to get forward, as he does score goals on occasion, usually important goals, contributing to the team by scoring 5 league goals last season though he had no assists. He is somewhat able to push the ball forward, but nothing much better than what United currently have with Schneiderlin completing 0.4 dribbles per game, but he is most certainly unafraid to shoot as he takes 0.8 shots per game. Morgan Schneiderlin was truly a very good defensive midfielder in the previous season.
How Would He Fit In?
Morgan Schneiderlin would most certainly fit in in the heart of the United midfield should he sign for the club, replacing Tom Cleverley as Michael Carrick's partner. His presence in midfield will surely be an upgrade from that of Cleverley's as he is significantly more sound defensively. What Schneiderlin will be able to provide will prove to be integral in the team: the ability to win the ball back quickly and easily. As of late, midfield has been bypassed far too often and far too easily as Manchester United have lacked the strong, steely presence to boss the center of the pitch. The addition of Schneiderlin will most certainly aid the team in that department as his physical and robust play will lead to the opposition midfielders being hassled and harried until they give the ball away. This will allow Moyes to implement a high pressing, high energy style of play which he appears to wish to implement if one were to make a guess based off of Manchester United's pre-season matches. Schneiderlin and Carrick will, thereby, be able to provide a solid foundation for Manchester United's front four including the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, and Robin van Persie, giving them freedom to interchange positions with one another and use their creative abilities as they see best. This will lead to overall havoc on the opposition defenses as the front lines will be well aware that the defensive side of the game shall be covered, and they need not worry as much about losing the ball, allowing the forwards to try new ideas, leading to more beautiful and creative play. Schneiderlin's presence as a left defensive midfielder will also aid Patrice Evra in covering the attacks by opposition wingers, helping shore up Evra's flank, especially as Evra ages and loses the pace necessary to track back, particularly because his best traits are his abilities to overlap and aid the left sided player of the front four in attack, providing width and an extra option in build-up play. Schneiderlin is also tidy in possession, while being able to occasionally nick a goal or two, or provide an alternative path through a long ball or a key pass. His creative abilities will not be as important as his defensive abilities though he will most certainly be able to set up a few chances on his own. More importantly is the creative freedom that Carrick as he will be aware that there will be someone available to clear out any opposition chance should he give the ball away. This will lead to him being able to orchestrate United's attacks from a deep lying position, much in the vein of Andrea Pirlo for Juventus. Overall, Morgan Schneiderlin will prove to make a positive impact on the club, especially considering that he is only at the age of 23, and will be seeking to improve.
The Key Problems:
While it may all certainly appear to be fine on the surface, there are several problems with the potential signing of Morgan Schneiderlin. The biggest and most glaring issue is the simple fact that he has not yet played in Europe and has no European experience under his belt. This may prove to be a bit of a problem as the midfield may just end up being overrun and outplayed by the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid. His lack of experience may end up costing the club dear, though he will certainly improve with time, he might not be able to provide the final piece of the puzzle for Manchester United's fourth Champions League crown. Furthermore, his pass completion rate is not yet at a truly elite level. He must attempt and complete more passes in order to become a much better player and one of the best should United wish to dominate Europe. He can most certainly win the ball back, but does he have the technical ability to play the ball around? That is the side of his game that will surely need to improve, especially by looking at physically dominant yet superbly technical midfielders like Bastian Schweinsteiger. Overlooking that, why would Southampton give away one of their best players? He is under contract until 2017, and he is holding an important place in the first team, a fan favorite at St. Mary's. It will be very hard to prise him away from the club and should United be able to do that, it might be at a higher price than the club should pay for him.
The Final Verdict:
Should Manchester United sign Morgan Schneiderlin, the club's midfield will be immensely improved. He will provide a ball-winning presence in the heart of the midfield which the club have been lacking for a while now. In doing so, he will permit the forwards and Michael Carrick to play with more fluidity, leading to goals as well as more beautiful play while being defensively solid. Question marks do remain over whether or not he has the technical ability to aid United in the quest for a fourth European crown but he will surely improve, especially considering that he is still only at the age of 23. There are also some doubts over whether or not he will be willing to leave St. Mary's, considering he has been there since 2008, has a contract until 2017, and is a fan favorite as well as a third choice captain, all the while leading the midfield. Should United somehow acquire him at the reported price of 4.8 million pounds, it will be a great buy but expect Southampton to twist United's arm around and take at least 10 million to let United take Schneiderlin off of their hands. Nonetheless, Morgan Schneiderlin will be a very good buy for Manchester United and David Moyes, giving the ball-winning presence in midfield that has been lacking for a while.