Bastian Schweinsteiger has fallen short at Manchester United of the standards he set at Bayern Munich, according to Louis van Gaal.
But Van Gaal insists midfielder Schweinsteiger can up his game and provide the leadership Manchester United need in their Champions League clash against VfL Wolfsburg on Tuesday as they seek to qualify for the knockout stages.
United will be without captain Wayne Rooney, who is still recovering from an injured ankle, and need to at least match PSV Eindhoven's result at home to CSKA Moscow to progress.
Van Gaal's team have found goals hard to come by this season and their often listless displays have drawn the ire of their fans, but the Dutchman is counting on Schweinsteiger to guide his team through a tricky tie in Germany.
"The reason why we have bought Schweinsteiger is that he is a player who can lead or guide a team. That is important -- not only his football qualities -- but that he can lead and guide a team on the pitch," Van Gaal told the club website.
"I believe that every match that he plays he can play better because until now we have not seen the best Schweinsteiger that I have seen at Bayern Munich, but he can guide the team."
Van Gaal's words have caused a stir, and the manager backpedalled slightly, perhaps realising that he had gone too far.
"I think I have to discuss with Bastian Schweinsteiger and not with you,” Van Gaal added.
"Otherwise we have a tactical article about Bastian and then the reaction of the legends to that article so I don’t think that is wise. But I know he can be better."
Since qualifying for the Champions League via a playoff against Club Bruges, United have scored five goals in five games in the competition, and Schweinsteiger has called on his team-mates to be more clinical, putting their struggles down to a question of attitude.
"The players are not scared in front of goal, no. It is all about the killer instinct. We have players who have the abilities but we need it in every game," he said.
"When you are a big striker like (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi and Thomas Muller, they are all the same. It is about attitude. You need the attitude that you want to score.
"The motivation is there for Tuesday. It is a very important match for us and I know how difficult it is at Wolfsburg.
"We have to find the right tactic."
This is strong but fair criticism of Schweinsteiger, who has endeared himself to fans but has indeed been far short of the indomitable force that he once was. Not that he has been treating United like an MLS-style semi-retirement job, but Van Gaal spelled it out: he can be so much more.