Almost a year ago, Manchester United failed to sign Ander Herrera in somewhat absurd circumstances. The reported failure in meeting the players buy-out clause meant The Red’s midfield woes continued, with only Marouane Fellaini arriving on deadline day.
On 26 June, United finally looked to have landed their man, with the Spaniard penning a four-year contract, with an option to extend for a further year. So, what do we expect from him?
A relatively unknown commodity, Ander Herrera was a key figure of an Athletic Bilbao side, that dismantled Manchester United in the Europa League in 2011. Back then, the former Real Zaragoza man steam-rolled United’s already dire midfield, garnering fame. Having being linked to elite targets in Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas; who joined Chelsea, Herrera might just be the right man to provide the much needed creativity in the middle of the park. While the two aforementioned players are more of advanced playmakers, a position where The Reds possess plethora of options, Herrera fits well in the bracket of a deep lying playmaker; a la Paul Scholes.
The former Spain U-21 international scored 5 times for Athletic Bilbao, setting up 5 for his team-mates, with a pass success of 80.6%. While he might not look like a physical presence in midfield, Herrera’s tenacity and defensive contribution makes him a complete package. The Basque born midfielder averaged 3.1 tackles per game, racking up 7 yellow cards in the process, en route helping Ernesto Valverde’s side to a Champions League spot.
With Manchester United likely to wield a 4-3-3 formation under Louis van Gaal, Herrera is a tailor made commodity the Dutchman might be looking for. The Spaniard excelled under Marcelo Bielsa’s tutelage when the Argentine was in charge of the San Mames side; futhermore under Ernesto Valverde, forming an awe-inspiring midfield partnership with Mikel Rico and Ander Iturraspe.
Though Herrera might not have goals in him, he is certainly an update over United’s current crop of midfielders. His notorious ability to unlock defenses with alarming regularity accompanied by his sharp vision might prove to be the biggest asset.
His performances are no flash in the pan, though. Herrera has portrayed even more refined performances than the previous season, forcing United to move for the player despite losing out on him last summer.
When Ruud van Nistelrooy failed to complete a move to Old Trafford in 2000, the club captured him in the subsequent season, and the impact the Dutch striker had is self-explanatory. With Ander Herrera going through somewhat similar transformation, United would be fortunate if Herrera replicates even half the impression Ruud made.
With a manager of Louis van Gaal’s stature at the helm, Ander might fast become a vital cog under the former Bayern Munich manager’s setup. He possesses all the attributes to prove that he is worth the hefty price tag, hoping to fast become a cult hero amongst the fans like his compatriots Juan Mata & David de Gea.