It has been an odd start for Ander Herrera at his new club Manchester United. After arriving this summer from Athletico Bilbao, he is part of the new wave within the club that is expected to revive the club’s former glories. However, as their game against Leicester City proved at the weekend they require much greater stability at the back before they can focus on their wonderful attacking talents.
In his first few appearances in the Premier League, Herrera has shown glimpses of what he is capable of. At 25 years old, he has been brought in to be the conductor of the side, the player who begins moves with incisive passing and a quick brain to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. Whilst he has looked very assured going forward and has been providing chances for his team mates, he has looked less confident with the defensive side of his game.
However, there is a strong argument to suggest that defending is not really a big part of his game. Every player has defensive duties to carry out but some require less of a workload than others. United’s aim should be to regain possession and get the ball to Herrera so he can do the most damage. With players like Di Maria, Falcao, Mata, Rooney and van Persie, to name but a few, he has all the attributes required around him to make the side a real attacking threat.
The side are conceding too many goals and are under real pressure to deliver results against what, in theory, should be regarded as inferior opposition. With several new additions, in key roles, at United this season new manager Louis van Gaal must address these issues quickly if they are to have a successful campaign.
Bizarrely it was actually the Bilbao vs Manchester United Europa League game in 2012 that first really highlighted Herrera’s ability at the top level for many. Despite impressing in La Liga for a year or so beforehand it was on this stage that he made a certain club take real note. However, being a Spanish midfielder in an era where there have been so many fantastic players in that position meant he remained under the radar for many.
It was at Los Leones, though, playing alongside Ander Iturrapse that his game really developed. Having that confidence in a team mate alongside him allowed Herrera to really express himself. As a result, he was the one who really dictated the tempo for Bilbao and alongside de Marcos and Muniain provided Llorente with the chances to win games for the club.
They were of course also aided by the presence of Javi Martinez who was playing at centre back before his move to Bayern Munich. It meant that Bilbao had a solid and technically gifted back line that could provide the platform for the midfield to demonstrate their attacking skills without fear of being punished by being caught out of position.
As Manchester United proved at the weekend, there is no point having wonderful attacking players if you cannot defend. Very few, if any, sides have won major trophies with poor defensive units and it must change. There is no doubting Herrera’s quality and he will succeed playing in Manchester, but in order to prove himself he must be given the basic essentials. Players at the top level need to have a solid platform around them in order to execute their skills in order to win games of football.
Manchester United’s problems are effecting Ander Herrera’s overall game and as a result is hurting the club too because they will not see the very best from him until they provide that stability.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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