Analysis – Schweinsteiger the latest piece in United jigsaw

Spoilt by more than 26 trophy-laden campaigns under the stewardship of Alex Ferguson, United fans have been brought down to earth with a shuddering bang following two barren seasons.

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Former Everton manager David Moyes’ ill-fated eight months in charge at Old Trafford ended in the sack and, after a seventh-place finish, prompted the arrival of colourful Dutchman Louis van Gaal to try to turn the club’s fortunes around.

Van Gaal’s first season began with humiliating defeats against Leicester City and MK Dons, amid uncertainty over the club’s footballing identity, formation and playing personnel but ended with the promise of better things to come.

The Dutchman experimented with various tactical lineups in the absence of injury-prone but hugely influential 33-year-old deep-lying midfield anchor Michael Carrick.

Schweinsteiger is a player out of the same footballing mould and provides United with a new fulcrum around which they can build their next title-challenging side.

Billed as the “brain” of Germany’s midfield by coach Joachim Low, Schweinsteiger, 30, can dictate and dominate midfield with his boundless energy and a phenomenal ability to read the game.

Allied with a fearsome shot, pinpoint delivery and great versatility he has become one of the most revered and successful midfielders of his generation since his Bayern debut in 2002.

PERFECT FOUNDATION

The imminent arrival, subject to a medical and personal terms, of Schweinsteiger — the anchor of two of the most successful club and national sides of the last decade — represents the perfect foundation on which United can return to the upper echelons of Europe’s football hierarchy.

His arrival will reunite him and Van Gaal, with whom he enjoyed a close relationship during the Dutchman’s two seasons at Bayern.

Van Gaal has already brought in exciting 21-year-old winger Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven for a fee of about 30 million euros (21.5 million pounds) and is expected to complete the signing of Italian defender Matteo Darmian from Torino.

Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata are all dazzling attacking players but their threat has often been nullified by the absnence of a central midfielder capable of reading and dictating a game. In Schweinsteiger United have exactly that.

While the Premier League side were desperate for a player of his ilk, Bayern have several possible replacements at their disposal to take over from one of the club’s favourite sons.

Spaniard Thiago Alcantara has long been considered an heir apparent to Schweinsteiger’s midfield crown and evergreen Xabi Alonso fitted in seamlessly following his arrival from Real Madrid a year ago.

The phenomenal versatility of defenders Philipp Lahm and David Alaba has also seen them assume the role of midfield anchor to dictate matches on the biggest stage, while Javi Martinez remains a cultured and underrated midfield operator.

Given Bayern’s stable of ready-made replacements it is unlikely they will overly miss Schweinsteiger, but at long last United have found a player capable of being the catalyst for their return to to Europe’s top table.

(Reporting by Tom Hayward; editing by Ken Ferris)