He was the World Cup-winning captain demoted to train with Manchester United’s reserves by a manager seemingly hell-bent on humiliating him, his career cast into doubt aged just 32.
But a month on from the end of his Old Trafford ordeal, Bastian Schweinsteiger bears no grudges towards Jose Mourinho for his mistreatment this season. The opposite, even —the Chicago Fire midfielder wants to see his old club back in the Champions League next year.
In an exclusive interview with Newsweek, Schweinsteiger spoke of how moved he was by the reception from United’s supporters when he made his first appearance of the season in November 2016 against West Ham United, after Mourinho had cast him out of United’s first-team squad.
“I remember when I came on the pitch the first time after a long time where I was not selected. It was a great reception, I remember that so well,” Schweinsteiger says.
Schweinsteiger moved from Bayern Munich, where he spent 13 seasons, to United in the summer of 2015 as one of manager Louis van Gaal’s most high-profile signings.
The World Cup-winning captain at Brazil 2014 made 21 appearances, 10 as a substitute, in an injury-disrupted first campaign at United. Jose Mourinho, who replaced Van Gaal as manager in the summer of 2016, banished Schweinsteiger to train with United’s reserves before a recall to the first-team squad last autumn.
“At the beginning, when I came we started quite well,” Schweinsteiger says. “I remember the game away in Leicester [in November 2015] where we could have overtaken them in the standings. But we drew with them 1-1.” In December of that year, Schweinsteiger was suspended for three games for violent conduct after striking West Ham’s Winston Reid in a Premier League fixture. A knee injury suffered on international duty with Germany in March 2016 then caused him to miss 11 club games before Mourinho took over.
“When everything happened in the preseason with the manager [Mourinho], for me it was a test. I wanted to play for United, I wanted to play at Old Trafford. It was always my goal. I was training individually. I remember Mourinho in November spoke to me and took me in the first team again and said I could train again. But I was looking forward to getting more minutes and to play.”
United eventually allowed Schweinsteiger to leave Old Trafford for Major League Soccer, where he has proved an instant success. Fire, which finished bottom of the Eastern Conference last season, is unbeaten in three games since Schweinsteiger’s arrival and he has scored in two of those games. The franchise heads out on a three-game road trip that will take it to Toronto on Saturday, followed by away games against New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy.
Meanwhile, Mourinho has since apologized for his treatment of Schweinsteiger.
"We had a huge squad in the beginning but after knowing him as a person and a professional and the way he was respecting my decisions as a manager, yes I regret [it] and there is no problem for me to admit it, because I have told him,” Mourinho said in quotes reported by The Telegraph in March.
“I’m always a positive person,” Schweinsteiger says of how he dealt with his final year at United. “Of course I was surprised at how it was at the beginning of the season with the club and the manager. He apologized as you know and I think if we had met at a different time it would have been different, but it is how it is. I am now happy to be here in Chicago and I wish Manchester United all the best. I am always happy when they win especially if they can reach the Champions League spots. But I’m focused now here on Fire.
“I won’t forget the supporters of United and also the team and the players.”