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Morgan Schneiderlin could be key for Jose Mourinho's Manchester United

As the Premier League season approaches, both Manchester United and some of its most prominent figures seem to be particularly happy in their own skin. The club, having endured several frustrating transfer windows in succession, has now secured all four of its main summer targets.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, with the purchase of Paul Pogba from Juventus, finally has the marquee signing he has always craved, and a world-record signing at that.

Jose Mourinho is even feeling sufficiently comfortable that, having begun his Old Trafford tenure in reasonably diplomatic fashion, he is now picking fights with rival managers again. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, never short of confidence, is looking entirely at home in his apparent new role as the team's talisman.

The sense is beginning to persist that United's fate this season will be as much in the hands of its supporting cast as its leading men.

Three of those stand out. The first is Jesse Lingard, who with his goal in the Community Shield has contributed another sublime effort in a Wembley fixture and looks like he could be to Mourinho's United what Pedro was to Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.

Like Pedro, Lingard has a superb engine, is defensively sound, and though not the most inventive seems to score on the biggest stages. The second is Ander Herrera, for whom this season feels pivotal. And the third, and the least heralded, is Morgan Schneiderlin.

Though the France international did not make it off the bench in the Community Shield victory over Leicester City, his form will probably be integral to United's success or otherwise this year. Michael Carrick has long been the orchestrator of his team's midfield, but his last supreme season was arguably that of 2012-13, and he may in any case lack the physicality that Mourinho seems to demand in that position -- witness, for example, the manager's reliance upon Nemanja Matic alongside Cesc Fabregas in Chelsea's Premier League triumph two years ago.

The difference between Matic and Schneiderlin is that the former had a manager who believed in him from the very beginning. Schneiderlin, by contrast, was brought in by Louis van Gaal last summer but then seemed to lose the Dutchman's trust in a matter of months. The nadir of this came when United travelled to play Arsenal, who had one of the fastest counter-attacks in Europe, yet left Schneiderlin on the bench throughout.

Instead, Van Gaal began that game with Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield, who for all their command of the ball were likely to be overrun -- and so it all too predictably proved, as United were obliterated.

This was not Schneiderlin's only such indignity, and he fell so far from favour that he almost missed out on selection for France's Euro 2016 squad. Yet if he can recover his poise, the rewards for both him and United are immense. Though his distribution over long distances was not the most precise last season, he still ended the campaign with a very creditable pass completion rate of 89 percent, and he was notably good at breaking up opposition play, managing almost three interceptions every 90 minutes.

Mourinho's emphasis upon a small squad puts an added pressure upon him -- although Daley Blind can also play in a defensive midfield role, Schneiderlin is arguably the only member of this squad with the muscle to occupy this position consistently by himself, with Blind's best work here coming as part of a double pivot.

Of course, Schneiderlin's familiarity with Pogba's game from international level may prove to be a great benefit. What is striking, though, is that his role in this side is being slightly overlooked, even as he could end up being the key to its effectiveness. With Ibrahimovic as the team's central striker, Mourinho is likely to go for a primarily possession-based approach, given that the Swede no longer has the pace to be devastating on the break.

The emphasis will therefore be less upon quick transitions from defence to attack, which are Carrick's forte, and more upon brawn in the middle of the park, which is where Schneiderlin excels -- and, incidentally enough, where the out-of-favour Schweinsteiger might still have had something to offer. With the German apparently on his way out, Schneiderlin will be the club's sole midfield enforcer, unless Timothy Fosu-Mensah makes a spectacular leap forward this year.

Amid all the transfer drama, then, Mourinho has therefore made a subtle yet vital gamble on the fitness of Schneiderlin. It is a vote of confidence that the Frenchman, himself dissatisfied with his overall showing last season, looks due to justify.

If United do go on to title success, Schneiderlin's name is unlikely to be anywhere near the first on anyone's lips. Even so, if such a victory does ensue, his work will be seen everywhere in its foundations.