It seems increasingly likely that Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera will join English giants Manchester United at some point this summer. It is a move that was actually supposed to happen last summer, and if it happens this time round, just how far will it go to quell fan’s fears that United are a team on the slide?
First things first, the twenty-four year old is the creative spark that a team like United could do with. The Spaniard would also have been at the World Cup himself this summer if he was from essentially any other country, bar perhaps Germany. Diminutive would be one word used to describe him, a player who finds space between the lines easily and gets others involved.
Yet, his potential move to Manchester is perplexing. New manager Louis Van Gaal apparently vetoed a potential move for the more accomplished Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona because the team already has Juan Mata. If this is true, how is Herrera any different from Fabregas? In Mata’s defense too, he was played out of position and looked unsettled and unsure of himself when he joined United in December.
You can guarantee Mata will have a much better year this season, and with Shinji Kagawa also a part of the squad, where exactly does Herrera fit in? Also worth noting is that in thirty-three La Liga games last season, he scored five goals and provided five assists. The goal tally is fine, that’s not what he’s for, but he’d want to be providing more assists than that if he has any hope of making his mark.
To stick that assist total in context, albeit unfairly, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil provided three assists alone in a 3-2 win versus Stoke last year. This from a guy who supposedly had a below par campaign. So standards exist that Herrera would have to adhere to. So with creative midfield players already in tow, and only a decent campaign from himself last time out, is this really the signing United fans need and want?
We’ve spoken before about the fact that United need to make a splash with their first signing in the door, to prove they are not a spent force and that last season was a temporary blip. Herrera is not that guy, and making him that guy would be unfair. It is not guaranteed that he’d take a while to settle into a different country, but the reality is he probably would. There is no need to place extra pressure on him by making him out to be some sort of supposed savior too.
However, if he arrives at the club towards the end of the summer, after others have, he could make some splash next year. Timing is everything, and letting bigger names come in and have the spotlight while he grows in the background could reap huge dividends. There is a reason many European clubs have been after him for some time now, and there is no doubt he could have a big impact down the road for the club.
While there are many reasons why this partnership could fail, it could actually prove to be the beginning of something really great. He is young enough to realistically spend a good decade there if he does sign, given United’s tolerance to allowing older players stay on at the club as long as they are producing. With no Champions League football to look forward to, United can truly concentrate on the league.
Having Mata, Kagawa and Herrera supplying the balls to Rooney and any other strikers who come to the club would almost certainly guarantee United return to the top four after one year away. Having them in rotation would be great for the team. All three could arguably play together too, it would just require one of the three to sit deeper, which doesn’t come to them naturally. But the point is it can be done.
Ander Herrera is not the answer for Manchester United, he will not solve all of their problems. A top class defender, midfield general and prolific striker would do that. Herrera though could be the player who comes in, and ends up spending the rest of his career there, as a fundamental piece to trophy winning teams in years to come.