Recent talk of Barcelona’s reported interest in Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera has got a lot of United fans worried, myself included.
The 26-year-old has again in recent weeks proven himself indispensable and a key component of the Red Devils’ attacking play.
His recent performance against Everton is a prime example. His goal and assist provides only part of the story as his work rate is second to none. The willingness Herrera shows to win the ball back when United aren’t in possession highlights just how hard he is prepared to work for the team. And yet despite all my gushing over the Basque wonder, Louis van Gaal has only started him in three league games this season.
This isn’t a new phenomenon either, Herrera started only half of United’s 38 league games last term, despite being a firm fan favourite. If Van Gaal really does intend on winning this Sunday’s Manchester derby, it is perhaps in his best interests to start the Bilbao-born playmaker.
In spite of his limited starts this season, Herrera has created a total of seven chances and played a part in three goals (scoring two). And with almost half of his passes being forward ones, he is a player unafraid to take risks, something United will have to do if they are to beat their neighbours.
Creative flair is only one of the feathers in Herrera’s cap however. According to Squawka, the Spaniard was United’s fourth top tackler last season, and is the third most successful midfielder in one-on-one duels this term. So while United have midfielders who can shine in one department or the other, a la Schneiderlin defensively and Mata going forward, Herrera is a competent all-rounder, or box-to-box player if you prefer that particular footballing cliché.
Let’s face it though, I’m not United manager, yet, and Louis van Gaal seems to value one thing over all others: possession. It’s part of his famed philosophy. He demands that his players keep the ball, so their opponents don’t even have the chance to create a chance. At the risk of repeating myself, Herrera can perform this role as well. United’s number 21 has an average pass accuracy of 87%, higher than both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Wayne Rooney.
But don’t just take my word for it, a number of Herrera’s colleagues often sing his praises. Not least his compatriot and apparent best friend Juan Mata who said: “I’m really happy to see my friend (Ander Herrera) back on the pitch, contributing his class and his ability to score goals.” Even van Gaal himself, often reluctant to heap praise on individuals, was keen to express his delight at Herrera’s display at Goodison. He said: “I have to mention Ander Herrera. He played very well and had a great contribution with the goals.”
After Herrera’s comments this week about his love for United’s away support and his desire to “go to an away game with them one day”, I certainly hope he won’t be able to do it too often. He has shown how valuable he is to Manchester United, and should arguably have a team built around him. In my humble opinion, LVG should start with him a lot more often. With the Spaniard in the team I just feel a lot more confident. And I know I am not alone on that one.