In the last few years, Manchester United has preferred to play wingers and forwards in center midfield over actual central midfielders. Going back to the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson’s era, the legendary Scot famously picked the likes of Rafael, John O’ Shea and Ji-Sung Park ahead of Paul Pogba in the center of the park. While United claimed that Pogba’s exit was a result of the-then-19-year old’s pleonexia, the French youngster has constantly maintained that it was a consequence of a lack of playing time. Fast-forward a couple of seasons, after a protracted transfer saga involving fake agents, United signed their first ‘true’ center midfielder since Owen Hargreaves – Ander Herrera. After years of having to watch Darron Gibson, Anderson and Tom Cleverley struggle in the center of the park, we finally had a midfielder who looked the part. Yet, these days, Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney – converted central midfielders – are preferred to the ex-Athletic man.
At first, Herrera was a mainstay of the United starting lineup – he played in all of the initial games under Louis van Gaal. However, a rib injury combined with tactical changes has meant the spaniard has been relegated to the bench since December (the start against Preston notwithstanding). In spite of United’s consistently subpar performances, van Gaal refuses to play Herrera. In a recent interview, the boss stated that he believes that the performances of other midfielders are keeping Herrera out of the team. It is certainly true that Rooney’s industry, Fellaini’s physicality and Angel Di Maria’s creativity are assets that have bailed United out of trouble. However, the confounding fact is that Herrera possesses all those attributes. Let’s look at some of the reasons that Ander Herrera should be a starter for Manchester United.
Goals – In the face of underperforming strikers, Herrera continues to provide goals and assists for this United team. Each one of his goals for United this season has been highlight worthy. None more so than his exceptional goal against Yeovil Town – a goal that won him United’s Goal of the Month. Other goals have included a delightful back heel against Leicester City.
Work rate – Herrera consistently harries opponents and isn’t afraid to go into a tackle. While he will never have the aerial prowess of Fellaini, his ability to close down creative midfielders would be an asset in the big games – when he comes up against the likes of Cesc Fabregas. Fellaini (somewhat unfairly) gives up too many fouls, and opposition midfielders are able to run past him easily. Herrera, on the other hand, has the foot speed to make recovery runs.