LONDON • Pep Guardiola, the Bayern Munich head coach, has cast serious doubts over the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger and claimed that Manchester United's new midfield signing has not been fully fit for the past three years.
Schweinsteiger joined United for £14.4 million (S$30.9 million) last month after 17 years with Bayern, but the Germany midfielder has been plagued by a succession of injury problems in recent seasons.
Although he is a huge admirer of Schweinsteiger's talent, Guardiola believes that the midfielder's prospects of success at Old Trafford will hinge on his ability to overcome the injury woes that persuaded the German champions to sell the 31-year-old.
Schweinsteiger started just 53 of 108 matches under Guardiola and has averaged only 20 starts per season over the past four Bundesliga campaigns as he battled a series of knee and ankle issues.
"When he does not have injury problems, I am completely convinced he will do very well at Manchester United," Guardiola said.
"He is a top, top player. Unfortunately, the last three years he was never in good condition. He is going to play really well there (at United) - I really hope that is going to happen."
Schweinsteiger's fitness problems were evident during United's pre-season tour to the United States last month and there is understood to be some concern at the club about the impact a glut of prolonged, debilitating injuries have had on the player's conditioning.
Having missed the 3-1 win against Barcelona in Santa Clara through injury, Schweinsteiger's movement appeared laboured in the 0-2 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in Chicago five days ago, notably in the build-up to the French champions' second goal, Zlatan Ibrahimovic speeding away from him with ease to score.
Schweinsteiger most recently made 30 or more league appearances in a season in 2010-11 and there are worries about whether his body will be able to withstand the physical rigours of the Premier League, a situation that may be exacerbated by the absence of a winter break in England.
He might also have to settle for a minor role during the opening weeks of the season, with Louis van Gaal, the United manager, likely to partner Morgan Schneiderlin, another new signing, from Southampton, alongside Michael Carrick in central midfield.
Guardiola offered a more encouraging assessment of Pedro Rodriguez, the Spain winger he managed at Barcelona and whom United hope to sign before Saturday as a replacement for Angel di Maria.
Pedro, who is comfortable on either wing or in a central attacking role, won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues under Guardiola at the Nou Camp.
"He is one of the best players you can imagine," Guardiola said. "He's won the European Cup and played millions of games for Barcelona. He can play in any team in the world."
THE TIMES, LONDON