After an indifferent start to his United career, we are finally starting to see the Ander Herrera from his Athletic Bilbao days.
Herrera was Louis Van Gaal’s first Manchester United recruitment for a cool £28.8 million back in 2014. But it was anything but a regular transfer after it emerged that the midfielder effectively bought himself out of his Bilbao contract after his club had second thoughts on the transfer.
United, though, could have had the player one year previously for £4 million less as then manager David Moyes came close to securing a deal for £24 million. Complications made the deal fall through though. Athletic Bilbao always complicates transfer deals it seems.
Under Louis Van Gaal, the combative midfielder never managed to cement his place in the starting line-up, finding himself in and out of the team. In spite of this, he was still able to secure thirteen goals in his two years under the Dutchman, including a couple of really crucial ones too.
Ander Herrera’s First Two United Seasons
|Season||Premier League (Apps + Goals)||Cup (Apps + Goals)||Europe (Apps + Goals)||Total (Apps + Goals)|
|2014-2015||26 - 6||5 - 2||-||31 - 8|
|2015-2016||27 - 3||7 - 0||7 -2||41 - 5|
Style Of Play
Don’t let Herrera’s small frame fool you into thinking he’s soft. Much like United legend Roy Keane, he is never one to shy away from a crunching tackle. That is not to say he performs brilliantly as a holding midfielder as he doesn’t possess the discipline needed for that role, but he certainly has his defensive contributions to the team. When not in possession, he’ll always be looking to win the ball back, never giving oposing players much time on the ball.
What he lacks in defensive discipline though, he makes up for in vision and attacking prowess. He has an eye for goal as can be gathered from the table above, but is also always willing to set up an assist. His deft touches allow him to maneuver himself well in the midfield, and decent passing range permit him to become the link between the defence and attack.
As such, Ander is best utilized alongside an anchor-type player like Michael Carrick, with an attacking midfielder or no. 10 in front of him.
Perhaps the highest praise Herrera can receive is from United legend Paul Scholes since he knows the midfield position so well. The former United midfielder singled out Herrera as the Red Devils best signing in 2014, claiming that the Spaniard had impressed him the most.
“Herrera’s been the one who’s impressed me most. He was another who struggled to get into the team early on but now he’s playing really well, really good football.
“He looks like he’s going to score goals, looks like he’s going to make goals, so he’s been a great addition. He’s only a young lad as well so hopefully can get even better.”
Performances This Season
Despite finding himself in and out of the team again at the start of the current campaign, recent performances by the Spaniard will have convinced Jose that Herrera deserves a spot in the starting lineup.
Marouane Fellaini kept Herrera out of the team in the early stages of the season as Mourinho looked to find his best starting eleven. Herrera did, however, start in United’s EFL Cup Third Round tie versus Northampton Town, and registered his first goal of the campaign in his side’s 3-1 victory.
His goal earned him a start against Leicester where he helped United register a 4-1 win at Old Trafford. Ander received high acclaim for his display against the Foxes, and he followed that up as he produced a man-of-the-match display against Liverpool to help keep them at bay and earn a well deserved draw at Anfield.
More recently Jose Mourinho heaped praise on the midfielder after another tenacious performance helped dump city rivals Manchester City out of the EFL Cup.
“I thought Ander brought the team to different levels of intensity and pressing. Then we started recovering balls and being dangerous.”, he told MUTV