Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at home to Burnley was one of those games where the scoreline did not justify the performance. Due to lack of finesse, panic substitutions, poor refereeing and sheer bad luck Manchester United managed to lose two crucial points. However, despite all these factors, the one which hurt us the most was Ander Herrera’s second booking. Due to two clumsy and reckless challenges, the Spanish midfielder is banned for one match in the Premier League, meaning he will be missing Manchester United’s trip to Swansea on Sunday 6th November.
Since the beginning of the campaign Ander Herrera has been a pivotal part of the team and one of the most consistent performers. His new role at the number six position allowed his midfield partner Paul Pogba to carry the ball forward and opened variety of options. Herrera brings Carrick’s composure and the ability to intercept the ball when defending and Mata’s knack of passing when attacking, performing as the perfect box-to-box player. Replacing such a player, despite it being only for one game, will be a difficult task for manager Jose Mourinho. If the gaffer is hell-bent on starting Paul Pogba and Juan Mata, the third player in midfield will be will be the one orchestrating the passes from defense to attack.
The manager, however, is not short of options to replace the 27-year-old Spaniard. So let’s look at the players that can potentially replace Ander Herrera against Swansea City:
According to our recent poll surveyed on Twitter, 70% of the voters would prefer Michael Carrick over anyone else to replace Ander Herrera. Michael Carrick has managed to appear only 4 games out of 15 this season only one being in the Premier League as a substitute. His most impressive performance this season was in the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford where United triumphed into a 1-0 victory.
Ever since he signed for Manchester United back in 2006, Michael Carrick has been one the unsung heroes of the team. Known for being a calm and composed midfielder, Michael Carrick is now 35 and getting ever closer to hanging his boots. However, Mourinho seems to be a fan of the veteran Englishman despite having a few complaints regarding his age. He says:
“I can’t expect from Michael what I can expect from [Marcus] Rashford or [Ander] Herrera in terms of playing three, four, five, seven consecutive matches.
“But he’s phenomenal and when you say he played in the last two wins, I think the last three maybe because he also played against Northampton – there is no relation with victories – but for sure when he is on the pitch he gives us important things.”
Speculations of him starting against Swansea City increased when Carrick was left out of the squad travelling to Turkey for the Europa League tie against Fenerbahce, many suggesting that Mourinho had plans to rest him for the weekend. What contradicts the chances of Carrick starting on Sunday is the fact that he was included in the starting 11 only 3 games this season, all three being cup ties and none in the Premier League.
If given a start, Michael Carrick will give certain stability to the side along with giving other players to move around swiftly. Despite not being the box-to-box player he once was, Carrick can still do the job.
Without a doubt, one of the most controversial players when it comes to the player-fans relations, the ex-Everton star is another likely contender to replace Ander Herrera for the single match.
At the beginning of the season, the manager trusted Fellaini with the ‘Matic’ role alongside Pogba, expecting a similar performance from him. And for that matter, he did deliver but, like most of Fellaini’s positive displays, even this one was short-lived. Starting him alongside Herrera for the game against Chelsea didn’t help either, as what followed was a 4-0 thrashing by the London side.
With 10 appearances under the belt this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mourinho gives Fellaini a go alongside Paul Pogba. While he won’t provide the eminence needed from an average midfielder, when it comes to going against Swansea’s midfield duo of Leroy Fer and Sung Yueng Ki, a physical presence is essential.
Given the chance, Morgan Schneiderlin can truly showcase a world class display as a defensive midfielder. When he signed for Manchester United 16 months ago, the debate behind Michael Carrick’s replacement seemed to over and done with. However, due to reoccurring injuries and less game time, Schneiderlin is yet to have good run of matches for Manchester United.
Second only to Michael Carrick, 23% of the voters wanted Morgan Schneiderlin to start on Matchday 11 in place of Ander Herrera. Over the season, Schneiderlin is the only one who wasn’t paired with Paul Pogba. In fact, Schneiderlin is yet to start a Premier League game this campaign, appearing only once as a substitute. By the looks of things, Mourinho is yet to be impressed by the 26-year-old Frenchman who, interestingly had the same issues with Louis van Gaal during the closing stages of last season.
Having made no real impact till now, compared to Fellaini and Carrick’s chances, it is unlikely Schneiderlin will get a start, but if he does, it is hard to predict what he can bring to Mourinho’s system considering the lack of game time this season.
This does seem like a long shot, but we cannot rule it out. The 18-year-old Dutchman can play across the back four and right in front of it. He did showcase his ability on and off the ball against Fenerbahce when he replaced Paul Pogba, however his inexperience in midfield with the first team m. ay be a problem, but everyone has to start somewhere. Fosu-Mensah has previously played in the right-back position, both for Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, which could be his role for the foreseeable future with the injury to Antonio Valencia, which sees no backup for Matteo Darmian, should he receive an injury.
Yes, you read that right. A week ago, even Fosu-Mensah starting the match would be likelier than this, but with recent updates and images confirming that Bastian Schweinsteiger is finally training with the first team, I would like to think it is because of Ander Herrera’s suspension. It will not be down to that those, as Mourinho stated during his press conference on Wednesday, saying:
“It’s a decision based on the fact that we are in a period of the season where it’s really difficult to train with everyone together.
“At the moment, the day after we’ve played, the players train in a separate group – they do a specific recovery session. The group, instead of being 23 or 24, becomes 13 or 14, and then, with injuries, maybe 10 or 11.
“Many times, we go to the Academy to bring some young boys to have a group with the perfect numbers to train, match after match, week after week. Now, for example, on Friday, the players that play here [in Istanbul] are not going to train with the main group and this is the normal routine.
“Looking at Bastian and the way he was working professionally with the fitness coach, we think that it’s a human decision, a professional decision, to bring him back to the team. He’ll be much better prepared and in much better condition in case his future decision is to leave the club; he’ll be much better prepared for competition if he stays with us.
“It becomes one more option. At the moment, we have no problems in midfield like we have in defence but, if we have problems in midfield, it’s another option for us. It’s a human decision based on the training numbers and methods, but also a decision that can be positive for the group. It’s positive for us and for him.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger is the leader we need in place of Ander Herrera and I think he would be the perfect replacement, even if it’s just for a game. Despite being “past it”, Schweinsteiger, like Carrick, will provide stability as well as contribute to attacks as a regular box-to-box midfielder. Schwiensteiger and Herrera’s passion and love for the club emulates each other’s, and that zealous drive will certainly lift the team’s spirit.
Having not featured in a single game this season, as well as not being included in the UEFA Europa League Squad for the group stage, the German did not join his teammates on the flight to Istanbul yesterday. Based on this, many may think Schweinsteiger may feature against Swansea City, but with Mourinho’s comments (above) and the fact he was left out of the squad photo this season, a U-Turn would seem really unlikely as it will bring more negativity to the club from the media. Schweinsteiger may have been professional in his exclusion, but right now, it does not look like he will be an option, unless injuries force Mourinho’s hand.
Who would you choose to replace Ander Herrera against Swansea City on Sunday?
By Umang Bharali