Ander Herrera has this season established himself both as a key cog in Manchester United’s midfield, and as a firm fan favourite at Old Trafford. The Basque box-to-boxer impressed sufficiently to pick up his first Spain cap in November, and is now subject to strong interest from new Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde, under whom he played at Athletic Bilbao. Let’s hope he resists temptation.
Despite being signed a couple of years ago, it is only since Mourinho's arrival that Herrera has become a first-team fixture. Whereas he made only 17 league starts under Louis van Gaal last season, he was handed 27 by Mourinho this term, and made four further appearances from the bench. His increased game time was a rich reward for a string of outstanding midfield displays, which eventually proved sufficient to end David de Gea’s run of three straight Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year awards. Just as well, too; that honours board was beginning to look embarrassing.
Though Mourinho’s midfields have often been characterised by a strict division of labour — think Nemanja Matić and Cesc Fàbregas during his last success at Chelsea — Herrera has impressed precisely in the way in which he absolutely defies categorisation. His outstanding passing and tenacious tackling is underpinned by a sublime workrate and footballing intelligence best exemplified in the Europa League final, when he ordered Henrikh Mkhitaryan forward seconds before the Armenian doubled United’s lead. It’s little wonder he’s a man in demand.
Suffice to say, we hope he’s at United for another few years yet, and perhaps beyond. His contract expires at the end of next season, though rumours suggest he could snub Barça to sign an extension at Old Trafford. And, without wanting to get too ahead of ourselves, he’s clearly got the brain and temperament for management. We’re calling it now: Ander Herrera, current elite midfielder, future elite coach.
José Mourinho approval rating: Aggressively whirling an ‘ANDER HERRERA 21’ scarf in front of the Stretford End.