Versatility: a blessing and a curse. Over his five seasons at Manchester United, Ander Herrera has been asked to turn his hand to almost every job within the central midfield portfolio. He’s attacked. He’s defended. He’s made play and he’s broken it up. He’s shuttled, he’s sat, he’s man marked, he’s roamed, and, where appropriate, he’s put the boot. Okay, occasionally where inappropriate, too.
In the course of all that he’s made 189 appearances, scored 20 goals, and is now leaving behind a lingering sense that nobody ever quite got him right.
Much of this is down to the chaotic club he was playing for: TBB doesn’t know exactly how many different formations and midfield combinations Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have gone through in their search for something functional, because they don’t make numbers big enough. Ander Herrera was generally a decent bet for some slot or other, particularly given some of the nonsense he’s been competing with, but before he could really settle into a job, the plan was torn up again.
Oddly enough, this season there was, just briefly, a flicker of stability. United’s brief burst of competence under Solskjaer featured a midfield axis of Herrera and Pogba, and for two entertaining months they looked born to play together. But then Herrera picked up a knock, United’s form and fitness collapsed, and by the time he returned the move to PSG was already in motion.
Can’t blame him for that, of course, and there’s a sense that some of the gnashing of teeth is less down to his quality — in United’s best teams, he would have been a decent squad player — and more a combination of two factors. First, he did seem to genuinely enjoy playing for the club. And second, do you trust this shower to find an adequate replacement? AT
No dissenting opinion from this aspect of TBB. It’s a pity that Herrera will be forever tarnished by association with these terrible few years at Old Trafford, as he’s one of the few players that have undeniably tried their hardest to avert the crashing, catastrophic course of footballing history. As Andi points out, when United have looked at their (admittedly limited) best, Herrera has too; this hasn’t only been the case this season, but over the past few. It’s hard to think there isn’t some kind of causal link there somewhere.
If there is any consolation to be had, it’s that Herrera — notwithstanding his perennial teenager face — is 29, and box-to-box midfielders don’t always last long into their thirties. United were always going to have to find a long term replacement in the near future; it just turns out that the future is nearer than we’d realised. Finding someone of equal talent should be easy; finding someone of equal heart might be considerably more difficult. JS