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Ander Hererra: Our favourite Pantomime Villain

Ander Herrera has developed an unfavourable reputation amongst fans of other Premier League clubs, perhaps justifiably. However, he remains pivotal to this Manchester United side.

“I find Ander Herrera the most irritating player in the Premier League.”

These were the words written by Garth Crooks following Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Tottenham Hotspur, in which Herrera scoring the winning goal. His words are part of a wider rhetoric which has been associated with the Spanish midfielder for some time. Arguably he has replaced Diego Costa as the villain of the Premier League, for which he is vehemently disliked by fans of other teams.

What has Herrera done to warrant this? In some sense it is justified; he is more than willing to take a yellow card for a ‘professional’ foul and will certainly make sure it’s known to the officials when he’s been fouled. Though Manchester City chose not to open proceedings against Herrera, another example saw him being accused of spitting on the City badge as he walked off the pitch at the Etihad Stadium following the victory in the derby.

Whilst he is far from short of technical ability, his willingness to do the dirty tasks sets him apart from many Spanish midfielders who’ve made the transition from La Liga. In short, Herrera does the ugly tasks well. His ability to do so stems from a burning desire to win for the club he has called the biggest in England on countless occasions. He will do whatever is necessary to win, even if that means acquiring a less than favourable reputation with other supporters.

This is what makes Herrera so pivotal to this United side. He understands what it means to play for a club like United and his passion is clear to see. In the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, United have been criticised for lacking the type of leaders who used to epitomise his sides, the likes of Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, and Nemanja Vidic to name but a few. But in the shape of Herrera, Jose Mourinho has a natural leader who can ensure the players know how much it means to play for United.

The Spaniard has had a mixed season following his outstanding previous campaign, but he is hitting form at just the right time. Mourinho may well look to strengthen in midfield this summer, but it is vital that Herrera remains in and around the squad even if he is not playing ninety minutes week in week out. The only potential hurdle is that he only has a year remaining on his contract and is reportedly wanted by his former club, Athletic Bilbao. Consequently, a new contract for Herrera should be made a strong priority by Mourinho and Ed Woodward.

With the retirement of Michael Carrick imminent, Herrera needs to continue to show not only his footballing ability but why many have cited him as a potential replacement for Carrick as club captain. This involves not only displaying his passion for the club but also aiding the development of the likes of Scott McTominay, who has flourished under Mourinho’s tutelage thus far. He may also have a key role to play in ensuring United keep hold of talented Brazilian playmaker, Andreas Pereira, who will be hoping to play regularly next season following two season-long loans in Spain.

If Herrera can guide Pereira, United will boast a very strong central midfield for seasons to come, with Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic being the other likely starters in a potential midfield three. On the surface, this bodes well for United’s prospects and doesn’t even account for the relatively strong likelihood Mourinho will invest in the position. At times this season United have looked lost on the pitch, a team of fantastic individuals struggling to gel.

However, with Ander Herrera in the squad and continually developing the attributes of a true leader, the types of performances seen against Manchester City, as United reversed a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2, will only become more frequent.

Written by Rob Potter

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