Since his arrival at Manchester United in the summer of 2014 Ander Herrera has undoubtedly won over the hearts and minds of many fans, with his name echoing around the stadium from the Stretford End on an almost a weekly basis. Herrera has become a fan favourite and has could be considered a cult hero to some of the Old Trafford faithful. However, Herrera has found less success on the pitch than he has off it, the Spaniard never truly convinced Louis van Gaal of his worth despite the Dutchman bringing him to the club for a fee of £29 million.
I myself am a huge advocate of Herrera and believe that he is one of the best players at the club, I think that he raises the tempo of the play when he’s on the pitch and provides an attacking threat from midfield that has rarely been seen over the past three seasons for United. But Louis Van Gaal clearly doesn’t see the same Herrera that I do, as the longest run of Premier League games that he handed him was 14 matches at the tail end of the 2014/15 season.
There is no denying that Herrera had a better debut season than he did last campaign, but that isn’t to say that his second season was awful. In his debut campaign Herrera scored six goals and registered four assists in the Premier League, meanwhile, the season later he managed to total only half of each. Where his attacking influence dwindled, so did his defensive impact. Last season he made 24 interceptions, whilst the season before he managed 51.
Herrera struggled to adjust to Van Gaal’s 4-2-3-1 formation as he was less effective playing as the attacking midfielder or defensive midfielder as he is most comfortable having the freedom to roam up and down the pitch as a box to box midfielder. With Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the club Ander Herrera could be set to be handed the freedom to roam the midfield and play as a box to box midfielder, similar to the way Mourinho deployed Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea over the past three seasons, where he would line up next to a holding midfielder such as Nemanja Matic, where he then would have less defensive responsibility as his main job would be to link the defence to the attack. This role suits Herrera best in my opinion, as he possesses the energy to change a game and increase the tempo of the play, which undoubtedly will suit the attack that Mourinho has formed, with Henrik Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimović only adding to the attacking threats of Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney, and Marcus Rashford.
A potential obstacle for Herrera to overcome next season could be Paul Pogba. Reports have surfaced claiming that Manchester United have opened discussions with Juventus over a world record £100 million transfer for Pogba. If Pogba does indeed make the switch from Turin back to Manchester, then would look incredibly difficult for Herrera to force Pogba out of the Starting XI, as it would be likely that Pogba would play as the box to box midfielder in Mourinho’s system. But all is not lost for Herrera, he certainly has the quality to compete with Pogba for a role in the squad, and with The Red Devils being involved in the Premier League, UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, and the EFL Cup next season squad rotation will be key to keeping the squad fresh in an attempt to win silverware for the second successive season. It would also not be inconceivable to picture Pogba and Herrera playing alongside each other at times next season, with either of them being pushed into the attacking midfield role or if Mourinho switches to a 4-3-3 formation then the duo could both fill the box to box role in the midfield. I believe that Mourinho will be a fan of Herrera and will want to incorporate him into his plans for next season, but would Herrera be satisfied if he is still only a bit part player at United next season? I don’t think so.