Analysing Ander Herrera's complete midfield display against Arsenal
The Manchester United midfield looked a lot more balanced on Saturday as Jose Mourinho opted for a 4-3-3 formation. He started with the trio Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera, which was well received by the supporters. It has taken a change of approach from Mourinho as he has been married to the 4-2-3-1 in recent years, but the results haven’t been good enough and there has been a feeling that the players at Old Trafford were being hindered by the formation, especially Paul Pogba. Their performance on Saturday suggested that there is more to come from the side this season.
One player to stand out was Ander Herrera, who is full of confidence after making his international debut for Spain. He had a difficult period under Louis van Gaal, but he is emerging as one of Mourinho’s trusted lieutenants and delivered an excellent performance against Arsenal to cement his place as a first team regular. The 27-year-old is beginning to finally prove his quality on a consistent basis in the Premier League and is set for his best season since joining the club. He is crucial to the 4-3-3 as he has the tenacity to contribute off the ball, but also possesses the ability on the ball to create positive openings for his side as he showed on Saturday.
His main contribution was to drive forward down the left hand side before producing a cross of the highest quality to assist the opening goal. Herrera’s energy allows him to play the box-to-box role and he proved on Saturday that he has an end product to make his work rate. Playing alongside Michael Carrick has helped him a lot as he has the freedom to attack, whereas before he had to cover for Paul Pogba, restricting his attacking influence.
The midfielder showed his impressive passing ability on Saturday, as he ended the match with a 90% accuracy from 67 attempted passes, higher than any of his team-mates. He was at the centre of everything that Manchester United did in the attacking half and he appeared to grow in confidence with every touch of the ball. Not only is he adept at retaining the ball, Herrera is able to influence the match on a consistent basis, as displayed by his three key passes during the match. It is crucial to have forward-thinking players in the transition phase and Herrera certainly qualifies as that.
However, it is his defensive work rate that makes him an integral part of this Manchester United side. After the signing of Paul Pogba, it was important that Mourinho found a midfield combination that freed the Frenchman as he isn’t best known for his defensive contribution. This has increased the importance of Herrera as he reads the game very well and isn’t afraid to get stuck in, even if his discipline is sometimes an issue. On Saturday, he completed one tackle and made six interceptions. This emphasises how hard he works in both halves of the pitch and why United fans have been praising him this season.
It was his assist that will take the headlines, but Herrera delivered a complete midfield performance on Saturday and showed why he is keeping the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin out of the team. His Manchester United career has been a little stop-start at times, especially under Louis van Gaal. However, he now has a manager that sees his qualities and he will believe that he can finally fulfil his undoubted potential. During the week, he got the opportunity to play for his country and he should now establish himself as an important player for club and country. He has the ability, but needs to show that he can deliver this level of performance on a consistent basis.
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