It was not long ago when Manchester United's midfield starlet Ander Herrera was named their Player of the Year 2017. But since the arrival of Nemanja Matic this summer, the Spaniard seems to have lost his place in the starting XI. But are Manchester United really better off without Herrera?
While the previous seasons didn't prove to be good enough, 2017 was the year when Herrera really made an impression on the club and across Europe. He scored a goal and assisted in six that season in the league, averaging around 66 passes per game with a passing accuracy of 88%. He impressed defensively too making 2.61 interceptions per game in the Premier League
He received frequent praises from his manager Jose Mourinho and became one of his main men for the campaign. Who could forget his performance against the Champions Chelsea at Old Trafford last season, where he assisted Rashford with a brilliant through ball for the first goal, scored the second by himself but most importantly, man-marked Eden Hazard for the entire game and never allowed him to get free space.
His ability to hold the midfield and make crucial passes at the right time caught the eye of the fans. This resulted in him being voted as their Player of the Year by the United fans.
But then came the summer transfer window which saw United buy Nemanja Matic from Chelsea and things started looking bad for Herrera. Since the start of the season, Mourinho has always seemed to prefer Matic over Herrera and that has seen a great dip in the number of minutes in the playing time of Herrera.
But the question is, is Matic really proving better than Herrera? While the league leaders Manchester City have scored a hefty chunk of goals this season, one of United's major problems has been the lack of goals of late.
Although United have improved to a great extent in defence, they don't seem to have created a lot of chances in the attack and that has seen them scoring a fewer number of goals this season when compared to City. The reason behind this is simple, there is lack of creativity in United's midfield.
City's midfield has players like De Bruyne, David Silva, and Gundogan. United rely on Pogba, Matic, and Lingard from the centre for their chances. Pogba seems to be doing okay with his performances when being played at the right position, but Matic never seems to pose a threat to the opposition offensively.
Although his work is to hold the midfield and keep the ball, most of his passes are directed backwards to Jones and Smalling which is doing no good to United's forward movement and buildup for the attacks. But with Herrera available, should United really be playing Matic?
It is a known fact that Herrera is a workhorse. He does a great job defensively, wins tackles, and intercepts crucial attacks from the opposition. When it comes to going forward, he has an eye for goal too. He has a brilliant vision, can score goals from long range, and can make runs that can frustrate the opposition.
One might remember his performance against Everton at the Goodison Park this season where he made some crucial passes and took a number of shots from range. This puts an obvious question forward; why can't United play a three-man midfield with Pogba, Matic, and Herrera?
Herrera is currently out with a muscle injury. He has only made 19 appearances this season creating nine chances while managing to keep a pass accuracy of 87% but is yet to score. It will be interesting to see whether Mourinho gives Herrera a chance when he returns from injury.Published 17 Feb 2018, 01:26 IST