Not all heroes wear capes. And they also aren’t always recognised instantly. Ander Herrera is the personification of this, for both club and country. Country is a tough one, though. Players like Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi have been rightfully keeping the available starting slots to themselves in recent years, but for his club career the issues the Spaniard has had are really rather baffling but now a thing of the past.
Under Louis van Gaal the pace and intensity was completely nonexistent. Herrera shackled by the instructions of a manager who played anything but expansive football. It took a huge toll on the player, to the point his performances last season became lacklustre and he cut an uninterested figure, meandering around the pitch just going through the motions. At times last season he was deplorable, but towards its finale Herrera started to flourish once more and he soon became the only player with any sort of attacking intent beyond Marcus Rashford. All he needed now, was a partner with some footballing ability.
But things didn’t quite start out how it should have under Jose Mourinho. Herrera wasn’t an automatic starter at the very beginning of the season, and he certainly wasn’t hitting the heights all us fans know he can. And then he settled. Suddenly a partnership formed with Pogba, a unit when Michael Carrick is thrown into the mix. In fact to date the unfortunate sending off against Hull is the only blemish on what has fast become a sterling campaign for the man David Moyes had originally tried to sign back in 2013. Herrera is now vital to the cause.
His stats for the season are phenomenal. Against Tottenham alone he was responsible for five of the eight chances United created. He made 26 passes and recovered the ball for his side 11 times throughout the 90 minutes. His energy was phenomenal, and it’s this attribute that enables everyone around him to lift their games too. Michael Carrick need not exert too much energy, he can concentrate on sitting in and pulling the strings as he does with such reliability. Paul Pogba is afforded the opportunity to roam, the pressure to get back and defend is taken away from his shoulders and he needn’t bomb up and down the pitch quite so much.
It’s the dynamism Herrera brings to the side. He is the ultimate box-to-box midfielder, another personification he holds to his name. But it isn’t just his ability on the pitch that endears United fans to him, it’s his passion, his work rate and his obvious love for the club. Some tip him as a future captain based on this and the look he gives the referee every time he gives a foul away (I need to learn the Spanish for ‘I never touched him ref’ to be sure that’s definitely what he is saying mind). He has gone from the myth only Manchester United fans talk about to a player the masses are starting to see is highly underrated. And all of this is coming at precisely the right time for Jose Mourinho. Herrera can fire the side up the table without issue, of that I am sure.