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Why Ander Herrera can still be a Manchester United great

It’s safe to say that last season Ander Herrera had an incredible run. The 28-year-old Spanish midfielder consolidated his status as a United fan favourite, got his first call-up for the Spanish National Team and was even tipped to become a future United Captain. Despite signing back in 2014 the 2016/17 season has definitely seen Herrera finally fulfill his potential and show the footballing world what he can do.

This season, however, the Spanish midfielder has decreased in popularity. A regular last season, Herrera now struggles for minutes on the pitch and appearances under José Mourinho. However, Herrera can definitely still have a revival and can still go on to become a United great.

The Herrera that sits on the United bench does seem worlds away from the player fans saw in the 2016/17 season. Last season saw Mourinho’s United win the Community Shield, the League Cup and the Europa League, all of which Herrera undeniably played an important role in. The Spaniard shone in midfield, partnered with Paul Pogba, making 31 league appearances in the 2016/17 season and 9 appearances in the Europa League, which demonstrates how key he was across all competitions.

Herrera also obviously had the respect of Mourinho, who continued to put faith in him, by including him in the Europa League final starting lineup. The victory in Stockholm was several players step up and put on impressive performances, but it was Herrera who was given the UEFA Man of the Match Award and truly shone. Things looked good for Herrera, having won the United Player of the Year Award (voted for by fans) less than a week before. Herrera was tipped by fans and pundits to eventually be the player to take on the Captain’s armband and become a United great.

The Spanish midfielder, however, has not managed to replicate his excellent form this season. Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matić has been preferred as Paul Pogba’s midfield partner, meaning Herrera has often found himself on the bench, only really appearing as a substitute. So far this season he has only managed 19 league appearances, which highlights how he has admittedly dropped down in Mourinho’s popularity.

Some have predicted future disappointment for Herrera as he faces even more competition from players like Scott McTominay and Marouane Fellaini, for what was his safe position last season. However, there is no reason why Herrera still can’t be a United great.

Last season Herrera was tipped to become future Captain, based off many skills and qualities the player demonstrated he had. Herrera’s clear leadership abilities stood out for many, as Herrera appeared confident directing and instructing players around him. This quality will obviously have endured in the midfielder, with fans only seeing glimpses of it when he has since come on as a substitute. Herrera was also so successful last season, as he was such a reliable option.

Having suffered no major injuries, Mourinho was able to call on him whenever he needed, knowing that he would be raring to go and would put in an impressive shift for the Reds. This has remained, as Herrera now waits raring to go on the bench and always seizes the opportunity when Mourinho hands it to him, scoring a goal away at Yeovil Town in late January. Clearly, he has not lost the qualities that propelled him to such success last season and there is every chance that the same thing could happen again.

Mourinho has overseen the revival of many players, during his time as United boss and there is no reason why he cannot do the same with Herrera. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are two excellent examples. Both players were seemingly in decline, but under Mourinho, the two English defenders have had their careers impressively reinvigorated (excluding a few recent incidents). Fellaini also illustrates this point.

The Belgian midfielder has not always been the most popular at Old Trafford, but under Mourinho, Fellaini has grown to become a fan favourite in a funny way. Herrera’s United career definitely needs reinvigorating for him to become a United great and he is playing under the guidance of the perfect manager for this to happen.

Despite what has been a difficult season, Herrera remains a fan favourite with chants of “ole, ole Ander Herrera” ringing out every time he steps onto the pitch. Whilst Herrera does seem to be worlds away from that player who was tipped to be future United Captain, no one can doubt his quality and skill, that catapulted him to United success last season. Herrera clearly still possesses the same ability and talent that made him a superstar last season, meaning that whenever called upon fans can rely on him still putting in an impressive shift for the Reds.

Additionally, Herrera has been left out of the Spanish National Team for the last few international breaks and with the Russia 2018 World Cup looming at the end of the season, he will be more driven than ever to succeed for United.

Though Herrera has decreased in the manager’s popularity this season, Mourinho remains the perfect manager for Herrera to attempt to revive his career under. All the Spanish midfielder needs is an opportunity, (which is bound to come with United competing across different competitions and Mourinho having to rotate the squad.) When this opportunity eventually comes Herrera should use this opportunity to get his United career back on track, proving he’s the same incredible player he was last season and that he can still go on to be United great.

Written by Ciara Garcha

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