It’s reasonable to say that Ander Herrera has not been given a very fair crack of the whip since joining Manchester United two summers ago.
In an era where his trade as a midfielder has become one of specified labels, the chief problem for the Spaniard has been finding a pigeon hole to slot in to.
Clearly a multi-faceted footballer, Herrera’s ability to lash a ball goal-wards is one of his most edifying qualities.
However, the former Atletico Bilbao man has never been viewed as a pure number 10 type, perhaps lacking the guile for the position, yet paradoxically perceived as too nifty to be shackled in the defensively-minded water carrier role.
Whatever mould he fits best, the time to challenge opinions about the talented Spaniard has arrived and Jose Mourinho looks like being the manager to thank for doing so if, that is, he maintains faith in his charge following a splendid display against Leicester.
Any thoughts that Herrera could still carve himself out a United niche as the go-to box-to-box man, have since been squashed by the stiffly bankrolled return of Paul Pogba.
Yet, as a foil for the world’s most expensive player, Mourinho hasn’t discovered a better one early in his Man Utd tenure.
Playing as the right-sided deep midfielder in a theoretical axis alongside Pogba, Herrera’s heat map in the 4-1 rout of the champions showed what a disciplined performance the 27-year-old turned in at Old Trafford. It was illuminated predominantly in United’s half.
The three successful tackles made were only bettered by full-back Daley Blind for the Red Devils, while Pogba alone enjoyed more possession than the former Bilbao man, whose passing accuracy touched 90 per cent.
To someone with obvious offensive tendencies, staying so disciplined was credit to him and Mourinho can only have been impressed to see his orders obeyed so diligently.
Being able to release the ball at a far higher tempo is what elevates him above Marouane Fellaini, the man Herrera should replace in the Premier League.
That the former played in the Europa League on Thursday is perhaps the best indication that United’s manager is prepared to give the latter another shot when Stoke visit on Sunday.
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