18th January 2017. By Ryan Baldi.
In his 25 minute cameo appearance on his Everton debut on Saturday, Morgan Schneiderlin racked up more Premier League game time than he had been afforded in the last six months at Old Trafford.
The 27-year-old Frenchman joined the Toffees from Manchester United last week in a deal worth £20 million - potentially rising to £24 million if conditional bonuses are triggered - putting an end to a forgettable 18 months with the 20-time champions.
The move to Merseyside represents a new beginning for Schneiderlin, a chance to reignite a once promising career which had stagnated, treading water at both club and international level.
His £25 million move to United in the summer of 2015 was supposed to mark his arrival at the summit of English football. The Red Devils were hardly the force they had been under Sir Alex Ferguson, but Louis van Gaal's men had crept into the Champions League qualifications places the previous season and, after a summer of heavy investment, were expected to kick on and reclaim their position as title contenders.
Things didn't go to plan for United, van Gaal, or Schneiderlin, however. The former Strasbourg man started 25 Premier league games last season - a respectable figure - but failed to impose himself on the Red Devils' midfield in the way he had at St. Mary's Stadium.
United finished fifth and, despite winning a record-equalling 12th FA Cup, van Gaal was dispensed with in May, replaced by Jose Mourinho, his former assistant at Barcelona.
It may have been a new frontier for United, but Schneiderlin's situation only worsened as he fell further down the pecking order under the new manager, featuring in just 11 minutes of Premier League action before his January switch to Goodison Park.
The player himself might feel hard done by for never being given a fair crack of the whip at Old Trafford but, in truth, in his 47 total appearances for the club, he failed to show anything like the authority and power in central areas that earned him the big money move in the first place.
At Southampton, Schneiderlin was two players in one: a defensive midfield enforcer, adept and breaking up play and protecting the back four, and also a box-to-box dynamo, able to win possession in his own half and burst forward to pull the strings in attacking zones.
This split personalty was on display in two key performances in his final campaign on the South Coast. On the opening day of the season the Saints travelled to Anfield to take on Liverpool. The Reds won the game 2-1, but Schneiderlin caught the eye with his swashbuckling all-round midfield display, coming within inches of scoring as he rattled the home side's crossbar.
Then, in late December, Schneiderlin anchored Southampton's midfield as they picked up a valuable point against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The Frenchman was a constant thorn in the Blues' side that day as almost all of the home team's attacks seemed to stop at his feet.
It's no coincidence that the man who oversaw those stellar displays for the Saints is the same manager who has just sanctioned the £24 million purchase of the 15-cap France international.
Ronald Koeman knows better than most what a pivotal player Schneiderlin can become for any side if he is given the right trust and confidence. His arrival at Goodison Park will serve only to further boost the Toffees' chances of cracking the Premier League's top six.
Furthermore, with Everton's dependence of 35-year-old Gareth Barry at the heart of their midfield, Scheiderlin's signing has given them the perfect long-term successor to the former Manchester City and England star. Coupled in centre of the park with the increasingly impressive Idrissa Gueye, a summer signing from relegated Aston Villa, Schneiderlin will give Koeman a central midfield pairing as combative and forceful as any in the division; none of the Premier League's creative central stars will relish the thought of facing Everton's new duo.
There'll be no shortage of motivation for Schneiderlin either. No doubt scarred by the deterioration of his International prospects, he will be determined to win over Didier Deschamps and earn a recall for Les Bleus.
Initially overlooked for France's 23-man European Championship squad for the tournament on home soil last summer, Schneiderlin eventually crept into the selection when Marseille midfielder Lassana Diarra was forced to withdraw through injury. However, the then-Manchester United man didn't feature in a single minute of the host nation's run to the final, and has not played for his country since.
The move to Everton gives him the perfect platform to once again prove his worth to Deschamps. Dropping further down the Premier League ladder could have harmed his chances yet further, but in joining an upwardly mobile and ambitious side such as the one Koeman is constructing, the Toffees' newest star has the opportunity to become a key player in the upper echelons of one of the biggest leagues in the world.
The player insists that his decision to move to the blue half of Merseyside was not a difficult one. "When I made the decision to leave, I knew the choice was important," he told Sky Sports.
"I knew a lot of clubs were interested. I spoke with a lot of managers but when Everton came I knew I had a platform because I knew the staff and it's a big club, too. It was an easy decision."
With the way things panned out for him in Manchester, it would be easy for Schneiderlin to bear a grudge and use his negative experiences as a driving factor to spur on his performances for his new club.
But that doesn't seem to be the way he sees it. For the Frenchman, a healthier, more positive outlook is the antidote to ensuring that his time with Everton proves more bountiful than his 18 months at Old Trafford.
"You need to know what you want in life," Schneiderlin philosophically posits. "Me, I want to play football and enjoy it. That's the most important thing, to play with a smile on my face and be able to play every weekend."
Morgen Schneiderin: A New Beginning At Everton
18th January 2017. By Ryan Baldi.