Louis van Gaal had to convince the Manchester United board to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger but is confident the midfielder will prove his worth.
Schweinsteiger has not had the impact many would have hoped since his summer move from Bayern Munich, with Van Gaal himself admitting as much earlier in the season.
The Germany midfielder has been hampered by injuries, however, and Van Gaal believes the 31-year-old is close to recapturing his best form.
“Bastian has been unlucky because he picked up an injury at a time that he was playing very well – he was improving,” Van Gaal told the official Manchester United website.
“During December I said that I expect more and he was very disappointed I said that, but I think I can say that because my expectation is higher.
“Manchester United has bought him even though he is now 31, so I had to convince the board to buy him, because he’s a very good player and he always gives a team more balance.
“He played very well at Wolfsburg and then began to reach the level he showed at Munich – I think he can [get back to it].”
United’s top-four hopes suffered another blow on Saturday as they were beaten 2-1 at Sunderland, with both Van Gaal and Wayne Rooney admitting their best chance of making next season’s Champions League may be to win the Europa League.
“The top four will be very difficult now,” Van Gaal said. “You cannot close your eyes to that. Everybody’s very sad.
“We couldn’t cope with Sunderland’s aggression and set pieces. We didn’t deliver and we feel disappointed and we feel sad. You cannot close your eyes from the top four being a minimum requirement.”