Ander Herrera has made only two appearances for Manchester United but has already offered a clear indication that he will become a player of great importance under Louis van Gaal.
First Van Gaal signing
Herrera was the first signing of the Van Gaal reign at Old Trafford, having initially been identified as a potentially key recruit by former manager David Moyes, and was signed for a reported £32 million from Athletic Bilbao.
The 24-year-old was particularly effective during the opening game of Manchester United’s pre-season US tour, a 7-0 drubbing of LA Galaxy, with Herrera able to control the pace of play with an exquisite range of passing and supreme ball retention skills.
There is naturally the hope that Herrera could be the long-term replacement to Paul Scholes that Manchester United have so craved, although the club icon himself has conceded that Toni Kroos would have been his ideal successor.
Herrera, though, has the credentials to be the player that his new club need in the centre of the park, and compatriot Juan Mata believes Manchester United have been able to acquire a ‘very complete midfielder’ in the Basque native.
“He is a very, very good midfielder,” Mata told reporters.
“He’s a good guy, my friend, and we’ve known each other since we were 15. He’s top quality, he can play quick, slow and dictate the rhythm of a game.
“He can score as well. He’s a very complete midfielder and can bring these qualities to the team.”
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The best is yet to come
Herrera and Mata, along with Wayne Rooney, have been the most prominent performers during pre-season so far from Manchester United, and the exchanges between this attacking triumvirate will provide a great deal of optimism ahead of the new campaign.
Against both the Galaxy and Roma, Rooney operated as part of a forward two, while Mata was allowed to drift in behind and Herrera could pick his passes with precision from slightly deeper. It has worked well so far.
With Robin van Persie yet to assume a role alongside Rooney, Manchester United are still not quite at full strength, and the return of the potential new captain will complete what should become a pivotal quartet.
Ten goals in two games suggests attacking creativity, something severely lacking last season, will improve drastically when the season begins, although there is still much work to do on the defence before the campaign does get underway.