Tuesday 20 March 2018

Bastian Schweinsteiger can help turn Man United into serious contenders - Wayne Rooney

Bastian Schweinsteiger has made a visible impact, both on the pitch and off it, during United’s pre-season tour of the United States
Bastian Schweinsteiger has made a visible impact, both on the pitch and off it, during United’s pre-season tour of the United States

Mark Ogden

Wayne Rooney believes the signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger can help Manchester United bridge the gap from also-rans to contenders when the new season kicks off next month.

Schweinsteiger, a £15m signing from Bayern Munich this month, sat out United's glamour friendly against Barcelona in Santa Clara last night due to a minor knee injury sustained during the squad's week-long training camp in San Jose.

He has made a visible impact, both on the pitch and off it, during United's pre-season tour of the United States, with the Germany captain's experience and leadership evident in games against Club America and San Jose Earthquakes, while club staff speak glowingly about Schweinsteiger's 'aura' and the effect his arrival has had on the squad.

Schweinsteiger, 30, has also struck an immediate bond with Rooney, and the United and England captain admits his new team-mate has already made his presence felt.

"Bastian is obviously a fantastic player," Rooney said. "Everyone has known that over the years. But since he has joined up with the squad, he has been a fantastic person, talking with all the players and the young players too, which is a great help to them, having someone of that experience and who is that successful. He is a great addition to the team and I feel it will be a very good signing for us."

Louis van Gaal's insistence that the bulk of United's summer recruitment was done before the squad departed for their four-game tour of the US - they fly home after facing Paris St Germain in Chicago on Wednesday - has enabled Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian to assimilate with the team and adjust to the demands of their coach and manager.

Last season highlighted the time required by players to embrace Van Gaal's methods, with United struggling to impress for long spells of the campaign. But the failure of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao to impress at United last term, despite their well-established reputations as star players, emphasised the difficulty experienced by many new arrivals at Old Trafford who are caught out by the size of the club and expectancy to succeed.

Rooney insisted, however, that this summer's new signings would not be fazed by the challenge of playing for United. "It can take players by surprise," Rooney said. "But I am sure that is where a lot of work has been put in by the manager and the backroom staff on the personalities of the players before they came in. I am sure they will be great signings.

"It is obviously important to help the new players settle in, but the ones we have brought in are experienced and successful. I am sure they will add a lot to the team. I can try to help them learn about the history of the club and what is expected to be at this club and be successful, but it is down to the players to prove themselves and create their own history."

With the Premier League opener against Tottenham Hotspur now just two weeks away, Van Gaal admitted the need for his players to step up their preparations.

Prior to the Barcelona game, United had been unconvincing in their wins against Club America in Seattle and San Jose in California, and there remains a concern as to whether the players will be match-sharp for the encounter with Spurs. But after spending half of last season learning Van Gaal's so-called 'philosophy,' Rooney insists that the team is now fully on board with the Dutchman's approach.

"At the beginning of last season, the manager told us it would take a while to adapt to the changes," Rooney said. "As a group of players, you don't think it will, but towards the end of the season, from Christmas, I felt we played some great football, understood exactly what the manager wanted from us and - particularly in the big games - we did really well.

"We can take that as a positive. It was the games we expected to win where we disappointed ourselves. We know what is expected of us now, though, and what we have to do, and we are positive and excited for the season."

Having been restored to a central striking position, the goalscoring burden is back on Rooney's shoulders, but while refusing to set a goal target, the 29-year-old insists he can deliver.

"It is a position where I think I can score goals," Rooney said. "Hopefully, I can do that. I am ready to take that mantle on."

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