Desperately Seeking Schneiderlin

By Adam Joseph

It confuses fans worldwide when Morgan Schneiderlin doesn’t get named in Manchester United’s first team. While Louis Van Gaal unbelievably cannot see it, in only his first season at United the Frenchman is quietly becoming one of the most important members of the Old Trafford club.

When he was on the bench at PSV Eindhoven, United lost. When he was injured for the final group game at Wolfsburg, United lost. When he was dropped for the trip to the Emirates, United were annihilated in midfield as the team lost 3-0. He again sat on the bench for three straight games in horrible losses to Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke City. These are not coincidences.

United are simply better when he plays. The stats speak for themselves:

  • With Schneiderlin: 15 wins, 9 draws, 6 losses, 52% win ratio, 21% loss ratio, 1.48 goals per game, 0.93 goals conceded per game
  • Without Schneiderlin: 5 wins, 3 draws, 7 losses, 29% win ratio, 46% loss ratio, 1.13 goals per game, 1.07 goals conceded per game

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Whilst that is a lot to swallow, it’s also a big enough sample size to take serious data and conclusions from. Schneiderlin not only protects the defence better than others, he also helps turn winning possession back into efficient disposal to other more creative and attacking players.

The Frenchman rarely loses focus and does not make mistakes. The same for example cannot be said of Michael Carrick, who surprisingly has had a few lapses that have almost cost United very dearly. Schneiderlin is by no means a brilliant passer, but is also an adept one. Being smart with the ball can be as good as being skilled with it, something he excels at with 89.1% of his passes finding their target.

His talent for intercepting play or breaking it up with his tackling are excellent, averaging 2.5 interceptions per game and 2.8 tackles per game. He’s the perfect partner for Ander Herrera, a more dynamic and talented attacking player who pushes forward in search of goals whilst the Frenchman does the dirty work behind him.

So why is he not fully earning the trust of Louis Van Gaal? It is hard to gauge. The Dutchman clearly has his favourites, Marouane Fellaini clearly being one of them. The Belgian has been one of the players chosen ahead of him and it is hard to understand why. He doesn’t have the mobility or defensive ability to justify it, and doesn’t offer nearly enough aerially to vindicate his continued selection.

Michael Carrick has been a loyal servant of the club, but at this stage in his career he is simply not better than Schneiderlin. Herrera can cover his passing limitations, as can Bastian Schweinsteiger and Carrick, but defensively the team needs the Frenchman out there.

This defensive prowess also allows United more time on the ball, allowing more chances to build quality attacks and therefore score goals. This is illustrated by the 1.48 goals per game with him in the team rather than 1.13 without.

Schneiderlin has been present for brilliant victories over Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool (twice in the league), Everton and Wolfsburg. If Van Gaal is smart, he will start taking these things on board. His potential replacement, Jose Mourinho will love a player of Schneiderlin’s ilk.

Great defensive midfielders have been a fixture of the Portuguese’s sides in the past including most recently last season’s version of Nemanja Matic. Schneiderlin is an improved version of the Serbian. It’s time to start appreciating his value to United, because he will play a key role in helping turning the club around.

Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.

Follow him on twitter @adamjoseph_27

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