The rumblings of more creativity echo from every corner of Old Trafford and around the globe fans echo that statement. Like a painter lost in translation, so too has Manchester United lost their way since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. “Attack! Attack! Attack!” even roared throughout Old Trafford at the lowest point of last season. Some began to wonder if Louis van Gaal was the proper choice to lead Manchester United to glory. At times it seemed a never-ending experiment of formations and pairings that did not amount to what expectations had built up.
Then it began to click. United went on a run that rivaled even the league leaders as they got within a realistic position to end the season sitting second. Many would argue the defensive cohesion was stronger than during the struggles of the start of the season (along with some magic from David De Gea). Some would argue it was moving Wayne Rooney to striker and ending the Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao experiment. Last but certainly not least, the reemergence of central midfield talent Ander Herrera was synonymous with the form of Manchester United.
Herrera may not be the most imposing figure in a midfield role, as he doesn’t fit the mold of a Yaya Toure or a Nemanja Matic (even a Morgan Schneiderlin), but he certainly plays like he is that imposing figure. Herrera often throws himself into challenges with a controlled determination, as his instinct often navigates him to a good place to make a tackle or intercept a pass. The ability to keep the ball and draw fouls, as well as being able to efficiently move the ball around while keeping possession has been a strong point in Herrera’s game when he stays disciplined. One of the very few weaknesses in his game, which found him a seat on the bench for a period of time last season, is his ability to be drawn to the ball. At times, you can see his determination interfering with the philosophy of the manager. Herrera himself revealed the manager’s reasons for leaving him out of the squad at times last season.
With the new additions in midfield, the extra competitions (and hopefully long runs into them), and Van Gaal’s perpetual knack to slightly alter the lineups as he feels needed it will be no easy task for Herrera to break into and maintain a starting spot in the first XI. There are many statistics for Herrera but measurable numbers (as you see in his physical stature) may sometimes be misleading. One point that nobody seems to be arguing with is the fact that when Herrera is paired with a composed and defensive minded central midfielder he truly illuminates the darkness which is the lack of creativity United has almost come to accept as a flaw of their game. Statistics have many variables that can impact the way a player is seen among the world of football, but this player is arguably the one to make it all tick.
The thing that may work into Herrera’s favour is the fact that Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger will more than likely not be featured in every fixture to try and maintain their health throughout the season. The other signing, Morgan Schneiderlin, is odds on to be one of the mainstays of the squad as his age and talents fill the void the central midfield has been searching for.
The fact that Herrera may have to play his way into the starting midfield role that he became accustomed to last season is a tad irritating for those that rate him so highly. He has drawn the praise of the last true legendary central midfield talent last season and aims to continue his progress to be another United great. The forward thinking creative wizardry of Herrera has you nearing the edge of your seat, as every pass is weighted near perfection and ready to be struck by the oncoming boot of a striker. Herrera even showed proficiency in his striking last season as he netted many of his quality shots on goal.
Not every day do you see a Manchester United signing so deeply embody everything it means to be a Red Devil. Every interview and quote you see he is constantly relishing the prestige of the club, praising the fans for their love in him, and looking to repay everyone for their faith and love in him. The vision of the fans and management typically never align but the performance of the squad was visibly better with Herrera consistently embedded into his preferred central role with freedom to play his heart out for the club he so clearly has fallen in love with. Please repay the favor Van Gaal!
The article was researched and written by Evan Walsh. You can follow him on Twitter.