Manchester United fans have fallen hard for Bastian Schweinsteiger. You might say the German enforcer had them at Hallo, because to walk through the Old Trafford masses on Premier League opening day was to be mildly stunned by the number of replica shirts already adorned by his name.
The official merchandise is just the start of it. Schweinsteiger flags, posters, badges and shirts are the big sell from the street dealers too, with the most popular I came upon in August a t-shirt bearing the mash-up headline 'Ger-Manc', with their would-be saviour's face painted large as a beer-filled belly.
Memphis Depay might shift more adidas units in the Megastore this season, but the authentic United fan would take Schweinsteiger swag over the flamboyant Dutchman every time. The authentic United fan, much as they yearn for the attacking expression of years gone by, is still a sucker for a warrior who leads by example and fights like a man who believes in his cause.
Schweini has only been at United a matter of weeks, but already feels like a thread to a far longer story. There he was in Scotland this week, having a moment with Sir Alex Ferguson before playing his part in a 3-2 win for Germany. Ferguson has made no secret of his admiration for the player; the player did the same in return when he talked of United's stature being the reason he joined the club in the first place. That stature obviously endures today in large part because of Ferguson.
So to be pictured with the mythical Fergie, all smiles and glowing respect, was to further endear Schweinsteiger to the hoards who will his inclusion in every starting line-up. It followed his gushing praise for Paul Scholes back in July, in reaction to the story that the World Cup winner had asked for Scholes' shirt at an exhibition match. And there was also the line about how playing alongside Wayne Rooney would be a "big honour" for him.
It's all very well making all the right noises, but with Schweinsteiger they continue to arrive with sincerity. This is a not a man who is flippant with praise, nor playing to a media agenda - he's too experienced and too successful to heed to what might be expected of him. What United fans rightly feel is a genuine warmth and love for the club they've devoted a chunk of their lives to. All those years Schweinsteiger was on a gluttonous trophy binge with Bayern Munich, there was a piece of his noble heart devoted to rainy Manchester.
It's a story all fans yearn to hear in the transfer window - that of a player they've long admired, arriving at their stadium to confirm the feeling has been mutual all along. To think David De Gea might have been Real Madrid's Schweini this summer, but for months spent wasting time and the paperwork that never arrived.
United fans instantly knew they could trust in Schweinsteiger. Now they've got him, the joy of watching him relish his every moment and devour the experience of living out their dream is a truly heart-warming thing. Every social media post featuring Schweinsteiger at United seems to have him laughing, making friends and looking like a man freed from a broken marriage to go on Honeymoon with Rachel McAdams. Put simply, he's loving it.
It makes you wonder whether United's one-club men, Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, might have robbed themselves of a similar surge in happiness by not experiencing the freedom of something new themselves as players. To look at Schweini at any point this season has been to see a man totally in love with his life - and isn't that exactly how all rich footballers should look, all the time?
United fans love that he's loving it - at their club, playing for their badge. They also love that's he's a man of precisely the pedigree they've come to expect at their club. The media can downplay Schweinsteiger's influence and talk up his decline all they like, but the fact that a prolifically successful leader has chosen Old Trafford for home is more than enough for the fans right now.
Schweinsteiger himself was stunned by the reception he got on making his debut against Tottenham. "It's getting better and better," he said of life at United after hearing the roar that greeted his appearance as a substitute. He's even talked up the English banter - praising his team-mates for their attempts to prank him with the classic "what's the time?" trick as he carried his food through the United restaurant.
Thus far the German's charm offensive has known no bounds, and when he's not talking or playing himself into fan affection, United legends are doing it for him. Bryan Robson said back in July that Schweini was a natural leader who could bring back the good times to Old Trafford. It's not a big leap for that comparison to gather momentum and a big performance against Liverpool at the weekend would certainly help.
You'd have to think Louis van Gaal will play Schweinsteiger at Old Trafford. Cool heads are required in a hostile atmosphere and his is as cool as they come these days. The United manager badly needs a leader to galvanise his troops on the pitch and the fans off it. Who better than the man everybody at United can't help but be in awe of?
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