Mourinho offers Schweinsteiger ray of hope at Man United
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Bastian Schweinsteiger might still have a future at Manchester United.
It seemed the former Germany captain would be on his way out of Old Trafford in January when he was told to train away from the first-team squad for the first few months of the season, and even written off as an asset in United's published accounts in September.
But the 32-year-old Schweinsteiger has impressed United manager Jose Mourinho with his attitude and determination. Having been asked to rejoin training with the senior team last month, the midfielder made his first appearance of the season as a substitute in United's 4-1 win over West Ham in the English League Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Suddenly, Schweinsteiger is on Mourinho's radar. Mourinho, famously dubbed the "Special One" during his time at Chelsea, is calling Schweinsteiger the "Powerful One."
"In the summer, we try to make something happen for Bastian to have a different future," Mourinho said Friday. "He decided to stay, even in difficult circumstances. He worked for that, he deserved that little happiness of the last match.
"In January, he will be the powerful one, probably with better feelings than before now he is working with the team. I think he understands our dynamic, our philosophy."
Schweinsteiger, who joined United in July 2015 and still has 1½ years left on his contract, has a fight on his hands to regain a regular first-team place with Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini seemingly ahead of him in the midfield pecking order.
Given the strides he has made to earn Mourinho's confidence in the past two months, Schweinsteiger can still hope. And the reaction he got at Old Trafford when he came on against West Ham suggested United fans would be happy to see more of the 2014 World Cup winner.
"He is another one who can help us," Mourinho said. "During the season, you have injuries, suspensions ... Of course, it was 3-1 and he played for 10 minutes (against West Ham), but he was ready. He is another one in the squad working to have more chances."
There are a few more in that situation.
Attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has made two starts in the past week after being mostly overlooked by Mourinho since joining from Borussia Dortmund in the offseason. He also impressed against West Ham, setting up two goals and potentially doing enough to keep his place for Sunday's match at Everton in the Premier League.
Then there's Anthony Martial, the 20-year-old France forward who was United's top scorer in his debut year last season. He has been in and out of the team under Mourinho, who has sometimes preferred Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford in the wide positions.
Martial doubled his tally for this season with two goals against West Ham and looks to be responding to some pointed comments by Mourinho in the British media.
"He is working. Working harder than before, to be honest," Mourinho said. "When you score two goals, maybe it helps your happiness to be back, your confidence levels to be back."
Mourinho will be back in the dugout at Goodison Park after serving his second touchline ban of the season in the West Ham match. That was a punishment for kicking a water bottle next to the technical area during a league match at Old Trafford last weekend.
Mourinho said he deserved to be sent to the stands for the offense but queried whether other managers would receive the same punishment.
"The only thing I would like," he said, "would be the same rules for everyone ... I accept the suspension of one match. It's as simple as that. But it has to be the same for every manager."