For as long as many of us can remember, the Manchester United midfield has been the main issue for any manager at the helm at Old Trafford. Since the retirement of Roy Keane there has been a hole not quite filled, and then when Paul Scholes called it a day that hole became a chasm. Paul Pogba promised to be the answer first time round, but that ended with him departing the club and again the problems began. Wayne Rooney has been tried there and failed, Marouane Fellaini was never going to answer any questions and Michael Carrick continued to age (rather selfishly if you ask me). Pogba’s return has gone some way to reinstating the class that was missing from the middle of the park, but finding the perfect partner for him has been something of a struggle for the new manager. A struggle that looks like ending fairly soon.
This season, the main partner for the new arrival has been Fellaini, and this hasn’t gone all that well as when the pair has played together both the form of the side and Pogba has suffered immensely. The pace and shape have gone awry massively, Pogba’s ill discipline is exposed and it only ever ends in dull and boring football. Step forward Ander Herrera. The Spaniard hasn’t always shone at Old Trafford, under Louis van Gaal he struggled to maintain anything like the type of form fans know he is capable of producing. However, in the games he has played this season, he’s been one of the standouts, his presence has enabled Pogba to flourish and start to be a real force going forward knowing he doesn’t have to be tied to defending every time.
Herrera has time and again been the one player to have the first shot. Against Stoke last time out it was crying out for someone to hit one, the extra pass was always coming before the shot, but Herrera took it upon himself to try on from range and this lit the blue touch-paper for his colleagues and eventually the goal came. It doesn’t always go in, but the effect that can have on the way a game goes can be massive and one player’s willingness to shoot rubs off on others definitely.
It isn’t just that, though. Herrera brings pace with him, he brings the discipline lacking when Pogba and Fellaini are paired together. The insistence Mourinho has on playing with just two in the middle makes Herrera a pivotal part of plans, both for getting the best from Pogba and the intensity with which United go about their business. It’s the change that every fan was crying out for whenever Fellaini’s name appeared on the team sheet, that every fan knew the side needed to finally show the improvement under Mourinho from van Gaal. With Liverpool up next and a Derby defeat still lingering about like a bad smell, it’s imperative that United come away from Anfield with all three points and starting Herrera may be the best way to guarantee that outcome.