Manchester United have confirmed that Bastian Schweinsteiger will join MLS side Chicago Fire, with the midfielder set to leave as early as next week to move to the United States.
The World Cup winner has been frozen out at United after failing to feature in manager Jose Mourinho’s plans, and looked certain to be on his way out of Old Trafford at the end of the season.
But his departure looks to have been brought forwards after Chicago Fire confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that Schweinsteiger has agreed to join them, with a Schweinsteiger needing to complete a medical and gain a US visa before completing the transfer.
Should everything go as planned, Schweinsteiger could be a Chicago player by the end of next week, before United’s next match against West Bromwich Albion on 1 April.
A United statement, issued on Tuesday morning, said: “Bastian Schweinsteiger is to join Chicago Fire as a deal has been agreed with Manchester United and the player.
“The 32-year-old German midfielder's move to MLS is subject to a medical and a visa being obtained but Chicago are keen to finalise a swift transfer.”
Schweinsteiger thanked the Premier League club for allowing him to leave three months before the transfer window reopens, meaning United cannot bring in a replacement for him until the summer, and he also stressed his thanks to the fans for their support of him, even when he was out of the squad.
"I am sad to leave so many friends at Manchester United," said Schweinsteiger. "But I am grateful to the club for allowing me the chance to take up the challenge at Chicago Fire.
"I have enjoyed working with the manager, the players and staff here and wish them all the best in the future. But I have to reserve special thanks to the United fans – whose support has been a very special part of my time in Manchester.
"I was delighted to be part of the squad that won the FA Cup for them last season and will always remember their energy and their passion. Now is the right time for me to start a new chapter in Chicago and I am looking forward to it."
The 32-year-old had been pictured meeting with Chicago manager, Veljko Paunovic, last November, having been a long-term target of the MLS side, and could earn as much as $4.5m according to reports in the US, having agreed a one-year contract.
"We're adding someone who has won at every level, including the very highest levels, and has done so in a way that is consistent with our values," Fire’s general manager Nelson Rodriguez told the Tribune.
"We as a club will now be forced to hold ourselves to a higher standard, an accountability level. Previously, I think we could satisfy ourselves with what is known domestically. Now we need to rise to a standard that is set more internationally."
The newspaper went on to quote Schweinsteiger, who joined United in 2015, as saying: "Throughout my career, I've always sought opportunities where I hoped to make a positive impact and to help make something great. My move to Chicago Fire is no different."
Schweinsteiger arrived at Old Trafford during the Louis van Gaal reign, and while he featured regularly under the Dutchman during the 2015/16 season, he was clearly not a part of Mourinho’s plans when he arrived at the club last summer, having made just one start and three substitute appearances this season, none of which have been in the Premier League. His first appearance did not come until 30 November in the EFL Cup victory over West Ham, having been exiled from the first team at the club’s training ground and force to join the youth team.
"We know it's going to take some time and adjustment for him coming to the new league, new coaching staff and everything. We also know we can rely on his capacity to adapt and do that fast,” Paunovic said.
"He can produce actions that few players in the world can do. He sees (things) that nobody sees. He opens the eyes of the fans, where you can hear the people say, 'Wow!'."
Schweinsteiger retired from international football last year after amassing 121 caps for Germany, in which he scored 24 goals.