Manchester United fans have been left both bemused and disappointed by Ander Herrera’s lack of first-team action so far at the start of the new season.
He signed for £29 million from his home-town club Athletic Bilbao last summer and produced some fantastic displays in the second half of last season as United beat Tottenham, Liverpool and neighbours Manchester City to secure a top-four finish.
He provided goals in his debut season at Old Trafford too, with only his compatriot Juan Mata, captain Wayne Rooney and Dutch forward Robin van Persie scoring more league goals in 2014-15. Therefore it’s incredible to think that Herrera, who is a class act, is yet to start a match this season.
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WHY ISN’T HE PLAYING?
It would be foolish to think that Herrera is no longer a part of Louis van Gaal’s plans after the Spaniard’s impressive end to last season. Instead the Manchester United manager has hinted that the reason why Herrera isn’t getting into United’s starting line-up is because the Dutchman prefers to put a forward in the no. 10 role rather than a midfielder.
In the early stages of this season Van Gaal has chosen to position either new signing Memphis Depay or Belgian youngster Adnan Januzaj in behind Wayne Rooney.
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VAN GAAL’S CHANGE OF SYSTEM
United went on a great run towards the back end of last season using a 4-3-3 formation, with Mata and Ashley Young out wide, Rooney upfront, Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role and both Herrera and Marouane Fellaini in front of him.
With the help of Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind in the full-back positions, United managed to create triangles all over the pitch and outnumber their opponents in key areas. However this season Van Gaal has introduced a 4-2-3-1 system, with Morgan Schneiderlin protecting the back four and either Carrick or World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger positioned alongside him with the task of controlling the game and dictating United’s play.
As a result of this change in system and due to the fact that the competition for places in United’s midfield is as strong as it’s been for years, Ander Herrera has been the unlucky one who’s missed out.
WHAT CAN HERRERA BRING?
Van Gaal has expressed his desire to play a possession-based game, but with the exception of the first leg against Brugge and the early parts of the draw with Newcastle, United aren’t creating a lot of chances and their attacking play has often been slow and methodical. Herrera is a playmaker who would undoubtedly inject some much-needed energy into United’s approach play because he passes the ball at pace and he’s willing to run beyond the ball.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is as good in possession as anyone at the club and when he makes a pass he doesn’t admire it, he looks to find space and move into other areas where he can receive the ball and create goalscoring opportunities. His vision, neat feet and first touch are superb to watch, and Herrera has more dynamism and attacking intent than any other central midfielder currently in United’s ranks.
Herrera can pass and move, he gets into the box, scores goals and can provide balance to the United team, especially in games against their rivals. Comparisons have been made between the Spaniard and former Red Devil Paul Scholes, leading the legendary midfielder to hail Herrera as United’s signing of the season.
He is a huge fans favourite at Old Trafford and therefore Man United fans will continue to be disgruntled as long as he is forced to watch on from the sidelines by Van Gaal. There’s no doubt that Ander Herrera deserves more regular playing time at Manchester United because he can link midfield with attack, his technical ability is of the highest standard and he could be the player to spark United into life this season.