With the current personnel, the ideal way to fit Herrera in would be a 4-3-3. The distribution of Daley Blind, the physicality of Fellaini and the dynamism of Herrera would help United control the midfield and play the ball to Di Maria in the playmaker role. The width would be provided by the fullbacks. Ironically, this system isn’t too different from what van Gaal is currently playing. However, I genuinely think Herrera is the missing piece in the puzzle, for the aforementioned reasons. Admittedly, Mata and Januzaj are the odd-men out in this team, but they can be rotated into the more advanced positions as needed. Another point of discussion is the form of Robin van Persie. It is clear that playing both van Persie and Falcao in tandem does not work – neither one has the acceleration to create space for the other. To put it simply, the Dutchman offers more in his all-round play than Falcao does, and is therefore a better fit for this system.
A slightly more creative approach (see below) would be to drop van Persie and play Fellaini behind James Wilson in a modified 4-2-3-1. This would allow Fellaini to be the target man and be responsible for the holdup play, while the young English striker would be tasked with running behind the defense. Blind would continue to play the anchor role. Whereas Herrera would be responsible for driving the play from midfield and moving into the spaces created by the movement of Di Maria and the hold-up play of Fellaini. Personally, I find this system worth considering for games away from home, in particular. It would give United speed on the counterattack (via Di Maria, Rooney, Wilson and Herrera), the physicality for away trips (via Herrera, Blind, and Fellaini) and the possibility of switching for a 4-3-2-1 in defensive situations.
Van Gaal continues to speak about the need for “balance” in this United team, yet it seems that his most complete central midfielder remains underappreciated at the club. To drive home this point, this week, van Gaal argued that United needed to sign a creative midfielder in the summer. That comment may be a sign that the Spanish duo of Mata and Herrera are not appreciated at Old Trafford. And, while some believe Mata’s defensive vulnerability as a reason for his possible exit, Herrera is certainly not guilty of that crime.
In conclusion, through various interviews, van Gaal has bemoaned the need for a player who can inject pace into this team and someone who can provide balance and creativity. He suggests that strikers aren’t performing and that his best striker is being forced to play in midfield. It seems the resolution to all his problems is right in front of him, but perhaps someone needs to hand him a dossier so that he may finally see that Herrera fits that bill.