Manchester United’s draw today with Liverpool was a strange one with regards to picking the best player on the pitch- half the team performed admirably, but the other half was quite poor, and there is a complete division between the team’s performances. Immediately looking at the side, Phil Jones made a few important errors, Michael Carrick was well off-the-pace, and Paul Pogba played his worst ever game for Manchester United. Marouane Fellaini was a decent substitution, and Juan Mata showed intent, but Wayne Rooney looked completely off the pace for the duration of his cameo, with Marcus Rashford sitting on the bench.
Also easy to immediately eliminate are Matteo Darmian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcos Rojo, David De Gea, and Anthony Martial, all of whom looked decent but couldn’t influence the match. Ultimately, then, Antonio Valencia, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Ander Herrera stand to be the best contenders for man of the match.
Often, United’s central midfielders (save for Ander Herrera and Juan Mata) failed to capitalize on the gaping space occupied by Antonio Valencia on the right-wing. Defensively, he completed 3 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3 clearances, moving the ball around with a pass accuracy of 94%. Moving forward, he was also important, completing 10 crosses, as well as 2 long balls. Capping off a good performance, he put in a wonderful cross for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score the equaliser, continuing his good form in the Premier League this season.
Speaking of Ibrahimovic, I’ve seen plenty of criticism surrounding the Swede today, but I don’t understand why. Keeping the ball and bringing others into play, Ibrahimovic created a few chances, including a major one for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Ibrahimovic provided an aerial outlet throughout the match, moving around and winning a fair share of long passes from the likes of Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo, and then bringing the forwards alongside him into play with great control of the ball. As he usually does, too, Ibrahimovic popped up at the key moment to score his goal, and he looked fantastic in doing so. Diving under the ball to clip it perfectly into the crossbar and down, Ibrahimovic deserved his goal and United deserved the point.
However, the embodiment of United’s football had to be named man of the match for the second time against Liverpool this season. Herrera was United’s tempo and heartbeat, despite struggling to pass the ball, and some of his passes into space were phenomenal in creating chances for other players. His tally of 5 tackles, 4 interceptions and 2 clearances is MOTM-worthy on its own, without his tendency to win fouls in positive areas. Add that to his pure showing of passion by tearing Roberto Firmino’s shirt apart and the obvious result is a man of the match award for Ander Herrera. When Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick undoubtedly leave the club, the Spaniard needs to be named captain, because at times today, he looked like he was solely dragging United through the game, even though everything didn’t come off. He’s the embodiment of what it means to be a Manchester United player, and today, he embraced the occasion with a passionate display.