Manchester United’s draw against Stoke yesterday only brings one word to mind- baffling. After a ridiculous amount of possession, chances created and shots, United was unable to put the ball in the back of the net enough times to beat Stoke, who benefitted from a couple of massive defensive errors to score a great equaliser. One of the defensive errors was made by Ander Herrera, who was excellent the entire game and created what should’ve been more than the goal he was partly responsible for conceding. Herrera was at a loss for words after the game, and I understand why.
Herrera, much like the rest of United fans, pointed out that he can’t understand how United was unable to win the game. He, much like manager Jose Mourinho, said the side played better than they did against Leicester but still were unable to win matches. He also hopes the fans can be proud of the team’s effort, which he believes should’ve been sufficient to win the match.
“We cannot believe we did not win this game. I think we played even better than against Leicester as we created maybe 10 or 11 chances in front of their keeper [Lee Grant]. He was their best player and that says everything. I think our fans can be proud as we did everything and tried to win.”
Herrera’s relatively underdeveloped English doesn’t take away from his true statement that playing well and creating chances should eventually result in goals and triumph in the match. He said he even believed the side could have won by a large margin, and he doesn’t understand how that wasn’t the case. He encouraged fans to move on, saying that they struggled to score and were incredibly unlucky to concede at the other end. He’s right, ultimately- all the luck was in Stoke’s favour for the entire afternoon, and if United continues to perform the same way not many other sides will have a similar fate.
“This is football. I believe, when you play good, you have more chances to win. I have that thought – you should play good if you want to win but this time it was not like that. I hope this is not going to happen again. When we play as well as we did, we can win maybe 6-0 or 7-0. It was unbelievable we did not win but I cannot say too much. I don’t know what to say to our fans but we have to accept it and keep working.
“If we had scored the second, we would have killed the game but we didn’t. After that, it was a very unlucky moment. A deflection and the ball was very difficult for David [De Gea]. He tries to throw the ball out and there are then three players against Jon Walters, even with three players, the ball went up and I don’t know how. It hit the bar instead of going out – it stayed in and we were very unlucky.”
Herrera, who assisted one of Juan Mata’s two famous goals against Liverpool at Anfield and bagged a penalty against them last year, said the same will be a big test. Of course, playing against Liverpool is always important, as he stated- but he said now would be the chance to rectify the errors United made after the international break last time. Herrera, finally, said it will be advantageous to play on Monday because the South American players will be back and ready to play (if needed).
“It’s a big game for us. For our fans – away to Liverpool. We had a good example last time when we didn’t come back well after an international break and now we have a chance to fix it. We can say that. We have a chance to avoid that moment. We are going to try. I think it’s good playing on a Monday as all our South American players have more time to recover and get back in the team. We have to keep working.”
Questions still surround whether or not Herrera is suited for the defensive midfield role at United. He adds incredible fluidity to the side and brings incredible ball-winning quality to the position, but he isn’t as physically imposing as other midfielders at the club and he is prone to an error or two. In addition, Herrera’s attacking abilities seem to be limited in a defensive midfield role.
In my opinion, Herrera should be playing alongside Paul Pogba, where the two can dovetail and create chances at will. If Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a better option in the role, then so be it- Herrera isn’t in the side. That being said, Herrera is a good option in the smaller games, when United has less of an opposition threat and the likes of Mata and Mkhitaryan will not be defensive liabilities. In the more suited games, Herrera can be pushed further forward with the likes of Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin to step in behind.
That last paragraph summed all of it up, though, for United- Pogba, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, and Mkhitaryan. United has some ridiculous options to choose from, not to mention Mourinho’s favoured Marouane Fellaini. Herrera, though, is being given the opportunity to take his chance and become a key player from the aforementioned group. It remains yet to be seen, whether or not he will take that chance.