Manchester United’s Ander Herrera: Under The Miscroscpoe

Just when it looked as though everything was smooth, Ander Herrera’s move to Manchester United hit a major glitch when Athletic Bilbao rejected United’s £29 million offer. But, with the player already agreeing personal terms and passing a medical at United that was nothing more than a publicity stunt by the Basque club. After all, they do have history of this sort of thing, having done the same thing when another top European club met the buyout clause of their star midfielder (see Bayern Munich and Javi Martinez)

The Red Devils finally have their man, so what does the 24-year-old Ander Herrera bring to the club? Where does he play? What is his style? How does he operate? Would be some of the questions on every Manchester United fan’s lips.

The 24-year-old Spaniard is a very versatile central midfielder, who can operate as both a defensive and an offensive option. With United lacking in quality in central midfield, the dynamic Herrera would certainly add to the squad in an area that needs the most attention. His tireless work-rate, energy, technical ability, versatility and awareness of what is around him make him a complete central midfielder. So where can play? How does he compare to the central midfielders currently on show at United? For all that just read on.

As the more attacking central midfielder in a 4-3-3

Offensive output of Herrera and Man Utd’s central midfielders in the League last season

  Herrera Carrick Cleverley Fellaini Fletcher
Games Played 33 29 22 16 12
Shots 2.39 0.63 0.86 2.04 0.58
Goals 0.18 0.04 0.06 0 0
Chances created 1.86 1.04 0.57 0.41 0.81
Assists 0.18 0 0 0.08 0
Successful take ons 1.34 0.22 0.29 0.73 0.35

(All stats per whoscored)

With 4-3-3 likely to be Van Gaal’s preferred formation at United, he needs players who are dynamic, who can get up and down the pitch. Ander Herrera is exactly just that. Although he isn’t necessarily a box-to-box midfielder, his style of play is akin to that. When it comes to attacking output, there is only really one winner. Not only has Herrera played more League games than any of United’s central midfielders last season, he has comprehensively better numbers than all of them.

When it comes to taking shots, Herrera isn’t afraid to pull the trigger, even if it is from distance. Herrera averaged more shots per game than Carrick, Cleverley and Fletcher put together. As a result of going forward more often, not only does he take more shots, but also averages more goals. Last season, Herrera created almost two chances every game, which is almost double Carrick’s figure.

His ability going forward means that he is a perfect fit in a three man midfield, with Carrick and either Fletcher or Fellaini as the two other midfielders alongside him. With only Carrick probably guaranteed a starting place, it wouldn’t be a surprise if United bought another central midfielder, in addition to the 24-year-old Spaniard.

As one of the two central midfielders in a 4-2-3-1

Defensive influence of Herrera and United’s central midfielders in the League last season

  Herrera Carrick Cleverley Fellaini Fletcher
Games Played 33 29 22 16 12
Interceptions 1.16 2.98 1.94 2.52 1.73
Tackles won 2.64 1.60 2.28 2.52 0.69
Aerial duels won 1.06 0.78 0.34 3.75 0.69
Fouls committed 1.72 0.45 0.91 2.77 0.35

(All stats per whoscored)

On first glance, Herrera’s defensive numbers might not make for great viewing. But one thing that we must keep in mind is that last season Ander Herrera played without any defensive responsibility. Playing alongside a more defensive midfielder meant that the Spaniard could concentrate more on attacking, but even then, the fact that Herrera averages more tackles than United player is something to be made note of.

If Van Gaal employs a 4-2-3-1 formation, which isn’t out of the question, Herrera would be the perfect foil for Michael Carrick. With Carrick playing as the more defensive player, Herrera would be free to play as the more advanced central midfielder, a role he is very much accustomed to. That role might not only be his best position, but also the position, he is very likely to hold down at United.

With the likes of Mata, Kagawa and Rooney, Herrera is unlikely to play as an attacking midfielder at United, even though he is very capable of doing so. Instead, he will likely be the player Strootman was for Van Gaal with the Dutch national side, a technical player who can get stuck in both boxes.

Herrera’s passing is the only thing that is really stopping him from being one of the finest central midfielders of generation. If he works on that at United, he is no doubt, the player they have been looking out for. Even without it, his consistency and commitment make him a valuable addition to the squad, one that was desperately in need of top class central midfielders.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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