Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger has this week proved a worthy adversary to the chronicles of Paul Pogba’s life in the battle to be most dominant Manchester United news story.
The decorated German returned from his post-Euro 2016 break to be told he’d be training with the reserves, prompting a raft of responses, some more rational than others, from an array of parties.
Schweinsteiger’s brother implicitly expressed his disgust at Mourinho’s actions, while former Sheffield Wednesday defender Dejan Stefanovic bagged himself a spot in the headlines with the madcap suggestion that the Portuguese should be jailed.
Yes, ostracising the 32-year-old has certainly got tongues wagging, but there’s no need to sympathise with the former Bayern Munich star based on what happens to those Mourinho chooses to make an example of.
Unsurprisingly, Schweinsteiger isn’t the first high-profile player who the Man Utd boss has sought to sacrifice in an attempt to assert authority.
With Pogba’s pending arrival set to cost the Red Devils a world-record sum (and another eye-watering amount in wages no doubt), axing a well-paid, ageing individual who plays in the same position makes perfect sense. But it’s the complete and unnecessary alienation of a feted professional that sheds light on a spectacularly unsubtle scheme to establish who’s in charge at Old Trafford.
It’s a tactic Mourinho has deployed before, with current United schemer Juan Mata on the receiving end when the coveted coach returned to Chelsea in 2013.
Mata had won the Blues’ player of the year award in the two campaigns that preceded the 53-year-old’s return to London, yet was instantly ostracised on account of a poor work ethic.
However, this bone idleness didn’t stop United paying £37m for him in the first winter transfer window that followed Mourinho coming back to Stamford Bridge.
In his first stint with the Blues, starting in 2004/05, the two-time Champions League winner oversaw the departure of a string of once-valuable commodities.
Amongst the raft of outgoings, Argentine twosome Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo were shipped off to play Champions League football for respective Milan foes Inter and AC, while Dutch duo Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Boudewijn Zenden went to Middlesbrough on free transfers, where they competed in the Europa League.
None were subject to the hostility Schweinsteiger has copped, but the message these transfers sent was similarly transparent.
Still, the unwanted German will probably land himself a good deal out of it, even if his former club have ruled out a return to Die Roten.