Why Ander Herrera continues to grow in importance at Manchester United
Arriving from Athletic Bilbao for a fee of £29 million not many people in and around the Premier League had heard of Spanish midfielder, Ander Herrera. A skillful box to box player with great passing abilities and vision landed at Manchester United with undoubtedly some supporters raising their eyebrows. Herrera has quickly evolved into a fan favourite and has been playing the best football of his career.
Deployed in various roles under Louis Van Gaal, Herrera, started to get noticed. When Jose Mourinho arrived and the summer signings had been secured it was uncertain how the midfield would shape up. The Spaniard has proved his worth and is now finding himself being placed on in the starting eleven week in and week out. He is not the flashy player with all the moves and goals that some fans are looking for but what he does bring to the table is passion, pressure and a toolbox of skills. Through these traits Manchester United and Herrera are forming a great partnership. The Spaniard has seen himself earn his first national team call up in 2016 and has created a “cult-like” following with Red Devils’ supporters.
Herrera is not going to be the player that is going to score a massive amount of goals, but when he does score they are undoubtedly important. He seems to show up at the right times and big moments. His approach to the game seems to mesh nicely with the request of the manager, in that he plays with fire and confidence. Working alongside Paul Pogba he has found ways to make the midfield tick and keep United moving in the right direction as they see themselves closing the gap on the top four spots in the league.
The Spaniard, while not the fastest or biggest player on the field, can quickly make building an attack for the opposition a nightmare. He is constantly breaking up the attack and providing pressure on the ball. He has a knack for intercepting play as it builds and is quick to distribute. Manchester United is finding that the strength of Paul Pogba can be best seen when you are giving him the ball in space with time to turn and create. He needs the ball played to his feet and between Herrera and Michael Carrick, Pogba is getting that freedom lately and results are showing it.
Compounded with his reading of the game, Herrera is not one to shy away from a tackle. When the pitch is getting gritty he is willing to stick his foot into the mix. Breaking up the play and allowing Michael Carrick to float above the backline has helped calm the players. This passion that Herrera plays with can be seen on his face and in the raw emotion that comes out when he is around the game. Whether Herrera is on the pitch or on the bench, he is the same. It is difficult for the mind to erase the celebration scenes of Herrera banging on the glass of the dugout after the late winner (last season) at Watford or the finger shaking with a scowling smirk at referees when fouls are called incorrectly. He plays the game with the same emotion of a fan watching from the stands or in front of their television and, for many, this has placed him firmly in their hearts.
Herrera is also a machine when it comes to recycling play. Countless times this season, when attacks look as if they have lost their footing and defenses have closed down on United and the ball is released from pressure, he is there to recover and with most often one pass it is back in the dangerous areas. His passing range and ability to spot the difficult through ball only makes him more important to Manchester United. His vision and passing was best seen lately with the perfectly threaded through-ball leading to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal against Tottenham.
If there is one skill that Herrera has in his pocket that is only making this easier is his ability to keep his opposition guessing. Quick on his feet and with a shift of his weight he can be seen all over the pitch keeping defenders off balance. He can get the defenders stepping the wrong way to create half a yard of space and then deliver the crucial pass.
Jose Mourinho, when speaking about the Spanish midfielder, has expressed that he has both the backing of the manager and the fans and this compliment could not be more true. Supporters could be looking at just the beginning of this player as some are calling for him to be the next club captain. His passion for the game and United are so easy to see and the manner in which he speaks about his teammates and the club are that of a true leader. He seems to carry himself humbly and put the team before his person success. If Herrera keeps this up he may continue to rise in importance to Manchester United and maybe someday be wearing the armband that supporters have been alluding to.
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