Bastian Schweinsteiger is battling to save his Manchester United career with the Germany captain facing the prospect of dropping to fifth-choice in midfield under Jose Mourinho.
The 31-year-old is yet to return to pre-season training under Mourinho after being handed an extended summer break following Germany’s run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France earlier this month.
But when he reports back at Old Trafford later this month, the former Bayern Munich player is likely to find himself behind Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin in the midfield pecking order, as well as the world-class midfielder that Mourinho is pursuing – Juventus’s Paul Pogba remains the priority target – before the transfer window closes on August 31.
And with Dutch international Daley Blind being deployed in a holding midfield role by Mourinho during United’s pre-season friendly defeat against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday, Schweinsteiger’s prospects may become even bleaker if the former Ajax player is restored to the midfield department after performing at centre-half under Louis van Gaal last season.
Schweinsteiger started just 13 Premier League games for United last term after arriving in a £5m transfer from Bayern last summer.
Despite his lofty reputation, Schweinsteiger struggled to make an impact under Van Gaal and he ended the campaign with team-mates unhappy at his contribution in the second half of the season, when his absence from the club during rehabilitation from a knee injury prompted the belief that he was being afforded special treatment by Van Gaal.
His lack of mobility was also regarded as an issue within the club and, with Mourinho determined to boost the fitness and athleticism of his squad, Schweinsteiger faces a crucial period when he returns to United in order to persuade the new manager that he can make a significant contribution this season.
The World Cup winner is not the only player needing to convince Mourinho of his value to the club, however.
Holland winger Memphis Depay, Argentine defender Marcos Rojo, Belgian winger Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata, sold by Mourinho at Chelsea, all have points to prove to the new manager.
And while the Portuguese has been an admirer of Phil Jones, the defender has to convince the manager of his ability to remain fit enough to challenge for a place at centre-half alongside Chris Smalling and summer signing Eric Bailly.
Rojo’s inconsistency and concentration levels proved a concern for Van Gaal and his coaching team and the former Sporting Lisbon defender did little to banish those questions marks during an erratic substitute performance during the 4-1 defeat against Dortmund.
Depay was withdrawn at half-time after a poor first-half display against the Germans and the £25m signing from PSV Eindhoven has yet to persuade Mourinho of his potential, with Januzaj also needing to offer more evidence of talent to the former Chelsea manager.
Mourinho has moved to reassure Mata that he will be in his plans at United having sanctioned his £37.1m move to Old Trafford from Chelsea in January 2014, but the Spaniard’s prospects have been affected by the £26.3m arrival of Armenia international Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Mourinho also preparing to use captain Wayne Rooney in the number 10 role favoured by Mata.
Rooney, meanwhile, is expected to make his first appearance for Mourinho on Monday when United conclude their two-game tour of China with an International Champions Cup encounter with Manchester City in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.