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Ribery’s deputy

Schweinsteiger shines by doing it his way

Ottmar Hitzfeld declared himself “unsurprised” by Bastian Schweinsteiger’s commendable display at the weekend. “Experience shows that Bastian needs a few more games than some other players before he rediscovers his rhythm,“ the coach had explained after Bayern’s clash with Bremen a week earlier, a contention the 23-year-old amply proved in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Hannover. “He was outstanding,” Uli Hoeneß commented, “he stamped his authority on the match.“

The general manager’s statement was an unusual one. “I don’t normally single out individuals,” Hoeneß confirmed, “but Bastian’s taken so much flak recently, I want to go on record as saying I thought he was the best man on the park today.“ Quite an assertion, given Luca Toni’s hat-trick heroics.

Two assists

“He did everything we’ve always hoped he’d do,” Hoeneß continued. The Germany international laid on two of Toni’s goals with perceptive passes behind the home defence, but also initiated the move for the Italian’s opening strike and swung over a series of dangerous crosses before and after half-time. He also set up five shooting chances, the best stat of any player on display.

Schweinsteiger began the 2007-8 campaign well, but he ran into a long period of poor form, from which he is only now beginning to emerge. “This is what we want from him,” Hitzfeld remarked, “I rated him as good in Aberdeen last week, and I think the press criticism afterwards was unjustified. He tackled very well up there. It’s obvious he’s fully focused again.“

Not a second Ribéry

Understandably enough, Schweinsteiger’s interpretation of the left-sided midfield role differs considerably from the style favoured by Franck Ribéry. “Bastian is a completely different type of player,” Hitzfeld pointed out, “Franck is really a winger who likes to dribble and take his man on. Bastian is more of a playmaker, in charge of distribution and establishing field position, playing the final pass and controlling the pace of a game.“

The player himself was unwilling to discuss these and other aspects of his individual display. “It’s for others to assess my performance,” he insisted. “It was good to feel the coach has faith in me. I’m keen to give something back to the football club.“

Home truths

Schweinsteiger, already capped 48 times by Germany, described much of a long-running media barrage as “hard to understand. A lot of what’s been written simply isn’t true. I just try and ignore it. I’m only interested in what the coach and my team-mates have to say.“

Bastian’s partner Sarah is another valued reference point. “She’s my sternest critic,” Schweinsteiger revealed. “We’ve had our share of debates.“ The player’s display in Hanover will surely have made for smooth waters at home, as Schweini related with a grin on Monday: “She was prepared to talk to me again yesterday evening.“