Bastian Schweinsteiger can become Manchester United's Michael Ballack

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The signing of Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has divided opinion. The player will be 31 next month which has led some to believe that he's past his best. Others believe that he will offer valuable experience to van Gaal's side.

Schweinsteiger is not the first ageing German to arrive in England in the latter stages of his career. Michael Ballack joined Jose Mourinho's Chelsea back in 2006 aged 29. The then-Germany captain enjoyed success in England.

Might Schweinsteiger do the same?


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One of the main concerns about this transfer has been Schweinsteiger's questionable fitness. It's true that the Bayern legend has struggled with injury over the last few seasons. If you look at his appearance figures then you can see that they have been declining over the last three seasons.

In 2012/13 he made 28 appearances, 27 of which were starts. However in the following campaign this decreased to 23 appearances and 22 starts. It's last seasons appearance figures that are most alarming for Manchester United fans.

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He managed a mere 15 starts in the Bundesliga last season as he struggled with injury. When he was fit he was at times overlooked in favour of the veteran Xavi Alonso and David Alaba. Based on appearance statistics alone it would appear that fans shouldn't be too optimistic.

However it must also be noted that Schweinsteiger didn't fit the system that Pep Guardiola was implementing at Bayern. While the Spaniard maintains it was Schweinsteiger's decision to leave there are still question marks over their relationship. At United he will have a manager that he knows and trusts and this may help him to get back towards his best.


Much like Schweinsteiger, Michael Ballack arrived in England towards the end of his career. The similarities are striking. He was virtually the same age (29 as opposed to 30), joined from Bayern Munich, played a similar position and was also Germany captain.

Ballack arrived at Stamford Bridge having turned down a contract extension at Bayern, something he was jeered for in his final appearance for the club. If there were any concerns about his age he eased them in his first season with the side.

He appeared in 26 of Chelsea's 38 Premier League games. Despite receiving criticism for his lethargic performances he did manage five goals in the league, not bad for a 29-year-old. Ballack was linked with a move away in the summer but he remained at Stamford Bridge.

Though his number of appearances dropped to just 18 the following season he managed to improve on his goal tally from the previous year by netting seven times. Thus showing that you don't need to play every game to have a significant impact at a club.

He scored some important goals that season including two in a 2-1 victory over Manchester United. However the season would end in disappointment as he was part of the side that lost the Champions League final to Manchester United.

Though he struggled with injury during the 2008/09 season his number of appearances increased significantly. Now 31-years-old Ballack managed 29 appearances in the league, though his goal tally of one was disappointing.

Surprisingly Ballack featured most regularly in his fourth and final season with Chelsea. The German turned 33 during the course of the 2009/10 season but managed to feature in all but six of Chelsea's fixtures. His total of 32 games was the second highest amount of appearances in a season of his career. He struck four goals that campaign but was not handed a new contract by the club.


Michael Ballack's appearance figures in his final season with Chelsea proved that age is no barrier to success in the Premier League. Ballack arrived as an ageing midfielder but still managed to be successful in England.

Much like Schweinsteiger, Ballack also had his injury problems. However he managed to come through them and play an important role in four Chelsea seasons. So United fans shouldn't worry about the fact that their new signing is 31 next month, because if he can emulate Ballack then he has another two to three years left in him.

Make no mistake it won't be easy for Schweinsteiger to adapt to the Premier League. He has spent 14 years with Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga is the only league that he knows. England's top divison will be more physically demanding than Germany's. A worry when you consider that Schweinsteiger has struggled with the demands of the Bundesliga.

He is a player who is also used to a winter break, something he won't get in England. That's significant recovery time gone. Thus it would be unrealistic to think that he's going to be featuring in thirty plus games next season. That's not to say it won't happen, but it does seem unlikely especially with United's track record with injury.

He doesn't need to feature in 38 games to have an impact though. His experience will be invaluable both on and off the pitch. United fans should rest assured that he has the necessary experience to adapt. Yes he's lost a yard of pace down the years but this will be part of his adaptation. Pirlo serves as an excellent example of how speed is unimportant if you can read the game.

Quite where he'll fit into van Gaal's side is unclear. Rotation with Carrick might well extend both of their careers, as would international retirement something he should perhaps consider after Euro 2016.

At £14.4 million he is without doubt a risky signing but van Gaal clearly believes that it's a risk worth taking. It would be a huge surprise if he's a 30 game season man, but what he could be is an influential big game player for United and the perfect man for their young midfielders to learn from.

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Louis van Gaal
Bayern Munich
Manchester United
Premier League
Michael Ballack
Bastian Schweinsteiger

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