Ander Herrera has been one of Manchester United’s best performers this season, and perhaps the most outstanding. The Spaniard started this season with his future at the Old Trafford in great doubt following his inability to hold down a starting berth since arriving from Athletic Bilbao 2 seasons ago.
However, having seemingly held down a spot in Mourinho’s starting XI since putting in an impressive display in the Europa League match against Feyenoord, the Spaniard has continued to turn in strings of great performances. And his display in Monday’s night game against Liverpool proved why he could become United’s player of the season at the end of this campaign.
In what was a game of few chances at both ends, Herrera was Manchester United’s midfield anchor, shining more than summer signing and world’s most expensive player Pogba. In his 90 minutes on the pitch, Herrera put in a lot of work, doing a lot of tracking and breaking-up of play.
He made 18 defensive actions – a combined tackles (7) and interceptions (11) more than any other player has in a Premier League match this term. How Herrera has successfully transformed from a central midfielder that regularly warmed the bench, to a defensive midfielder who has become a key part of Mourinho’s team is far more than astonishing.
Jose’s decision to keep him in the starting lineup for such a high-billing Derby no doubt paid off in great dividends as he shut down Liverpool’s ability to dominate the midfield. He won 4 aerial duels, and recorded an average pass length of 21 meters with an accuracy of 74%. Herrera was in command for the Red Devils completing 5 out of 5 take-ons, touching the ball and making more passes than any other Manchester United player on the pitch. He also acted as the team’s leader despite having no captain’s armband. He was constantly giving his teammates direction and orders.
On the flip side, Herrera’s attacking qualities weren’t on display as that wasn’t the game plan. Jose Mourinho went to Anfield for a draw, and he got it, even if it meant his side had to sit back for much of the game and only attempted to attack using the pace of Young and Rashford on the wings to launch counters.
Nevertheless, Ander Herrera has continued to show why he is capable of becoming the best in his position in the EPL, and his ability to combine his attacking instincts in a box-to-box midfield role will yield great benefits for Manchester United this term.
At 27, the Spaniard definitely chose a good time to rediscover the excellent form that promoted the Red Devils to land him in 2014. And from the look of things, he could turn out to be their best signing since then, not Pogba or Zlatan.
His man-of-the-match display against a great Liverpool side riding on a high-tempo before the encounter proves it, and it is only the start of many of such performances. He hasn’t even peaked yet, so imagine how spectacular he would be as the season proceeds.