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Ander Herrera sees Manchester United momentum as more important than a potential new contract

Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera is out of contract this summer and despite having the one-year option activated a year ago, there are not yet any further developments as to whether the player will continue playing for the Old Trafford club. Herrera has been a good player to have over the past five years and could well have arrived under the management of David Moyes if it was not for the three stooges.

When you cast your minds back to the day United signed Herrera, no permanent manager was installed at the club and both Herrera and Luke Shaw, who arrived on the same day, were greeted by Sir Bobby Charlton. Louis van Gaal was to become the manager as soon as the Netherlands were out of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, which was held in Brazil. On his signing being announced, Herrera said:

“Signing for Manchester United is a dream come true. I have joined United to do all I can to help the team reach the club’s objectives. Having arrived on Tuesday, I’m excited to now be living in Manchester and I can’t wait for my first game in United’s famous red shirt.”

During his stay at United, Herrera has had some impressive performances; the one against Chelsea where he man-marked Eden Hazard was one of the most memorable as Herrera played the game like he was stalking Hazard and actually kept him out of the match – United won 2-0. Herrera has been lauded as captain-material by the club’s supporters, which is still something that can be heard today if you look in the right places.

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Despite the fact that the current season is starting to come to an end, with just three fill months of Premier League action, which will also incorporate the Emirates FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League, Herrera does not seem too worried about his future at the Theatre of Dreams. That does not suggest that he is happy to leave the club, or that he knows he will be departing Manchester after five years at the club. The player seems committed to the cause of ending this season on a high.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who replaced Jose Mourinho in December after the Portuguese manager was sacked, Herrera has been one of the players who has reacted positively and commenced working hard, which has been shown in his performances. The player seems adamant that he wants to commit his energy to play for the club he clearly loves, working to end the season with some sort of glory, which did not seem to be on the cards under Mourinho.

United have won the last eight matches in all competitions under Solskjaer and will enter the fray at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening against Burnley, seeking to make it nine out of nine in all competitions. Despite the fact that the matches United have played have been easier, although that could be argued based on the form and attitude of the team under Mourinho, they have beaten two top six teams in Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

Herrera has been able to stand up and be counted under Solskjaer and has risen in form and stature in the recent matches he has played in, which has been shown the Spaniard and Nemanja Matic partnering well in midfield, allowing Paul Pogba to play a free role in midfield, albeit further forward, which has led to him scoring five goals and five assists. It has been speculated that Herrera’s future lies away from Old Trafford, which might be a crying shame, based on what he brings to the team right now.

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Speaking after a 3-1 victory over Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup, Herrera spoke about his future, suggesting that he was more committed to fighting to get United into the top four, earning a UEFA Champions League place and possibly helping the team win a trophy this season, which could still be on the table. The fact he’s not willing to talk about a new contract shows you what Herrera is made of and how he makes himself tick. The Spaniard said:

“I’m not going to talk about my contract. We have more important things happening now than my contract so I just try to perform. My priority is to beat Burnley, Leicester. If I deserve a new contract, the contract will come. I’m not a selfish guy, I want the team to keep winning games, I don’t go crazy about my contract.”

Herrera also gave some insight into how Solskjaer gave this team the confidence they needed to perform, something that was so obviously lacking under Mourinho, although not a criticism to Herrera, his teammates or Mourinho himself. When United have played in the last eight matches, it is clear to say that they have been given the freedom to get forward and attack their opposition, which is what they were not doing under Mourinho. Herrera said:

“Ole brought that to the team from the first day. He said we want to be a team that controls the game, but sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes we have to defend, but we know when we are defending that anything can happen in attack for us. We have quick forward players who are able to make runs to be in box.

“Paul [Pogba] makes those runs, Ash [Young] and Luke [Shaw] too; everyone is allowed to go and attack, so of course when we are playing we think that anything is possible. Even in the tough moments, we have the feeling that we can hurt our opponent.

“We shouldn’t go crazy with the table. There are still a lot of matches to play in the league so we go game by game. Every game gives you a new challenge, and new problems to solve. Our feeling is that if we perform at our best, we can beat anyone. It doesn’t mean we’re going to beat every team, but we have the belief because we have the quality to do it.”

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United obviously have a big summer ahead of them. Ed Woodward is seeking a Director of Football, which will make the boardroom stronger with competent football leadership and also a direction for the club to head into. Of late, the same things seem to be happening, which will eventually lead the team down the same path again, just under different leadership. United have a lot of deadwood at the club, that they need to get rid of. It is yet to be seen whether Herrera is seen as deadwood or a player to keep.

Personally, I feel Herrera will offer some experience going forward. He still has the ability to get involved in matches and the confidence to do so. Letting him leave the club on a free could be seen as a mistake, especially in the fact that reports suggest that Juan Mata has been offered a new one-year contract, based on the fact that he is over 30, which could be the case with Herrera too, although he will not turn 30 until the 14 August 2019, when the new Premier League season would have already started.

During his time at United, Herrera has played a total of 180 times, starting 132 matches and coming off the bench in 48, including the 3-1 victory over Arsenal on Friday evening. Herrera has scored 19 goals for the club, the most recent in the 5-1 victory over Cardiff City, which was Solskjaer’s first match as caretaker manager. For the past three seasons, including the current one, Herrera has netted twice each season, scoring five times in his second season at the club and seven in his first season.

Having Herrera at the club as it looks to launch into a new era would be wise and bring stability to the midfield. United might well have many midfielders heading into the new season, so Herrera may not be needed but with the likes of Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira and Fred lacking experience, having players to help them develop would be necessary. United need to learn that having experienced players to help the younger players is necessary and without them, younger players may find it very tough.

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