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Ander Herrera will get minutes against top teams

A poor performance in the UEFA Super Cup was followed by Ander Herrera being benched in the first three Premier League matches.

It was a night all Manchester United fans will remember. It was the 24th May 2017 as the fans cheered the players at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Ander Herrera held the UEFA Europa League trophy in front of the fans. He even won the Man of the Match award for his performance. The fans were asking for him to be made club captain because of his passion and love for the club. He was a fan favorite and he couldn’t have been more delighted.

Fast forward almost four months, Manchester United were ready to play Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. But United found themselves outplayed and outperformed by a brilliant Los Blancos side. Herrera played poorly. He was unable to slow down and stifle Madrid’s fantastic midfield three of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modric. It wasn’t just Herrera who had a bad game; Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof, Matteo Darmian and a few others put in below par performances.

The three subsequent matches saw Herrera start on the bench. Henrikh Mkhitaryan started in place of him, albeit playing a different role to Herrera. Mkhitaryan played as an attacking midfielder who was free to roam and create assists. If Herrera started he would have played a box to box role, similar to Roy Keane in the 1990s.

Fans wondered if Herrera was paying the price for his imperfect display in Skopje, Macedonia against Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid. But there was another reason why Mkhitaryan was chosen over Herrera. Last season, Manchester United drew an unusually large amount of games because they were unable to finish off the opposition and this cost them massively, as it was the main reason why Manchester United only managed sixth place in the league table.

Mkhitaryan’s creativity and ability to find players in the box resulted in United killing off the opposition’s chances of getting a point out of the match. While The Red Devils used to be very vulnerable to conceding goals in the last 15 minutes of the match, they are now at their best in the last 15 minutes of the match. This statement is amplified by the fact that United have scored the majority of their goals in the last 15 minutes of the first three matches.

To give an idea of how important Mkhitaryan is to United, Herrera managed six assists in his 31 league appearances last season, while Mkhitaryan has already managed five assists in three appearances this season. Expect Herrera to start in midfield and Mkhitaryan to be pushed out to the wing or the bench when Manchester United play against teams with strong squads as their attacks could leave United liable in defence as Mkhitaryan does not contribute nearly as much as Herrera does defensively.

Herrera made a whopping 81 interceptions and 84 tackles in 31 appearances in the league last season. These contributions will be vital as Manchester United face crowded schedules and difficult teams in the season that has only just begun. A bit part role for Herrera this season is not foreseeable.

Written by Ehsaan Thahaseel

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