Man Utd midfield star headlines our 3 midweek talking points

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Ander Herrera was Manchester United’s most important acquisition

Of all the attacking talent that the Red Devils ushered through their door in the summer, the Athletic Bilbao string puller was perhaps lower in the excitement ranks compared to Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria.

However, it’s becoming increasingly clear why United tried to sign the 25-year-old Basque native twice, as the midfielder’s return to action since a rib injury has coincided with two impressive displays.

After a strong cameo from the bench in the 3-0 win over Hull, the Spaniard was recalled to the starting line-up against Stoke and was the driving force in a 2-1 victory, the club’s fourth in a row.

Herrera’s display was so prominent that the absence of Di Maria was barely felt.

Do West Ham have the strength in depth to mount a top-six challenge?

After 14 games last season West Ham had 13 points and were one place above the relegation zone. At the same point of the current campaign the Hammers have 24 points and are one place off the Champions League places.

The shift in strategy, both on and off the pitch, is paying off for the east London club, but their challenge for European football will be tested in January, when the African Cup of Nations could potentially deny them the services of three key cogs.

Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho could all take part in that tournament with Cameroon and Senegal respectively, leaving the Hammers without the spine of their re-branded side.

Christian Benteke’s scoring return to Aston Villa couldn’t have been better timed

The Belgian’s return from suspension coincided with a first Villans win in nine matches, and released the pressure on a club that were once again swirling the plug hole.

Benteke’s telling strike, the only goal of the game as Villa visited Crystal Palace, was his first since March and will have midlands claret and blue wearers hoping it’s the start of the kind of scoring streak that the club have relied upon in the past.

That’s unlikely to change this season, with Villa propping up the league for goals scored, with just eight in 14 games.

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