Manchester United have waived a fee to allow Bastian Schweinsteiger to join Chicago Fire, the Major League Soccer side, as another of Louis van Gaal’s failed signings was ushered towards the Old Trafford exit door by Jose Mourinho.
Schweinsteiger, who had 15 months left on his £180,000 a week United contract, has signed a one-year deal with Chicago worth around £3.6 million, subject to the former Germany captain obtaining a visa and passing a medical, and becomes the sixth of Van Gaal’s 13 signings to leave United and the fourth to go since Mourinho took charge last May.
Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao had already left before Mourinho arrived but Schweinsteiger’s impending departure follows that of Victor Valdes, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, all of whom were surplus to requirements under the Portuguese. Others could follow this summer, with doubts over the future of Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind, although another defender Luke Shaw seems likely to stay at this stage.
Mourinho refused to name names when he admitted in an interview last week that there were players United bought in recent seasons that he would never have countenanced signing but Schweinsteiger is thought to be one of those. United’s hierarchy also had misgivings about signing a midfielder with a poor injury history and Van Gaal had to push hard to convince the board to sanction the £6.7 million deal with Bayern Munich.
The 32-year-old was expected to leave United last summer, with the club writing him off as an asset in the club’s accounts for the year ended June 30, 2016 but he stayed and was exiled under the manager, who banished him to the reserves.
Mourinho unexpectedly brought Schweinsteiger back in from the cold in late October, describing it as a “human” decision, but he has played just 134 minutes in the past four months and not made a single appearance in the Premier League.
Schweinsteiger first met for talks with Chicago back in November and, despite United’s acute fixture congestion, Mourinho felt it was better that the player leave now - as opposed to the summer when a deal may no longer be on the table – given that he had no plans to really involve the World Cup winner during the run-in.
Schweinsteiger won the FA Cup with United last season, but despite struggling for form and fitness, that did not prevent him from claiming on Tuesday that he “will never forget my time with the club”. “I am sad to leave many friends at Manchester United,” he said. “But I am grateful to the club for allowing me the chance to take up the challenge at Chicago Fire.
“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.”
Chicago Fire’s head coach, Veljko Paunovic – a Serb like Schweinsteiger’s wife, Ana Ivanovic, the former tennis player, said: “In the locker room, he will be a huge example of a champion.”