Ander Herrera signed for Manchester United in 2014 for £28.5 million becoming Louis van Gaal’s first signing at the club since his arrival after the sacking of David Moyes. Herrera was a young tenacious midfield, willing to put in the graft to get the results necessary. This made him incredibly likeable amongst the supporters and he soon became a fans favourite.
Van Gaal’s style of football was very tentative looking to keep the ball and progressively move up the pitch. As a result, this needed quality passes and Herrera had that in his locker. As well as his good passing, Herrera had formidable fitness enabling him to keep running throughout the duration of the game ensuring that United were never short of a pair of legs in the midfield.
However, his time at United wasn’t completely straight forward as he wasn’t always guaranteed a starting spot in the team. Plenty of midfielders came and went during his reign at United and despite playing lots of football, at times the jury was out as to whether he was the right calibre of player starting at United.
Very little doubted his worth to the squad but at times for the role of a ‘box to box’ midfielder he didn’t provide many goal contributions. On the other hand, when Herrera did score, it was often in big occasions. His most important goal was against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final as his contribution cemented United’s comeback to send them through to the FA Cup final which they subsequently lost to Chelsea.
Furthermore, another big moment of Herrera’s reign was his assist against Manchester City to stop them winning the title against their local rivals. But the biggest moment of Herrera’s tenure at United was his Ji-Sung Park-esque performance against Chelsea tracking their talisman Eden Hazard wherever he went.
Hazard wasn’t even given enough space to tie his shoelaces as Herrera was always there hassling him. This role ensured that Hazard was of little effect to Chelsea and United secured the 2-0 victory in April of 2017. Subsequently, Herrera actually won 2017 player of the year after recording eleven assists in 50 appearances and winning the EFL cup and Europa League.
Herrera started off strongly at United but towards the middle of his time at the club he faded slightly and was benched more often. However, when Jose Mourinho came in this all changed. Mourinho is a stubborn manager who is often set in his ways but when he appreciates a player’s value, he’s rated incredibly highly hereafter.
Mourinho liked Herrera’s reliability and trustworthiness as it was a player he could rely on in an inconsistent United squad. Therefore, Herrera became a key member of the squad and with the trust from the manager improving, so did his performances. Herrera knew what it meant to wear the United shirt and held immense pride in doing so and gradually as he played more the love from the supporters grew also until he became a fan favourite.
However, in the summer of 2019, Herrera’s time at United was up as the board let his contract run down and an agreement for a new extended contract was never reached. Since his departure, United have lacked Herrera’s fighting spirit and quality of passing and have been looking for replacements in the midfield ever since.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become reliant on Scott McTominay and Fred as his midfield duo but there’s clear fundamental issues with the pairing as they are two players doing one man’s role and United would benefit greatly with the quality of Herrera in the midfield now.
Did the board make the right decision in letting Herrera go or should they have fulfilled his wishes and let him stay a couple more years?
Ultimately, I feel that despite the increasing wage demands, Herrera justified it as he always performed when needed and was a great example for the younger players and with him gone United have struggled to find the right balance in the midfield ever since.
So, in conclusion I feel United made a mistake in letting Herrera leave the club and would be a better team with him in the squad right now.
Written by Ethan Bents