Has Ander Herrera justified his price tag since moving to Manchester United?
When an exciting young 24-year-old moved from San Mames to Old Trafford in 2014 for around £32.4 million pounds, much was expected from him. Fast forward to November 2017, Manchester United triggered a clause in his contract to extend his stay at the theatre of dreams by one year. However, as time passes and United continue to strengthen their midfield, questions are being raised about whether splashing the cash on the Basque central midfielder was worth it.
United's midfield is usually associated with dominant, directly influential, and ever-present figures such as Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and more recently, Paul Pogba. However, the contribution of Herrera is like the glue that holds the midfield together. He isn't seen making scintillating forward runs and tearing up defences like Giggs or making crunching tackles and interceptions like Keane. But his ability to work as an engine in United's midfield allows the others to produce moments of magic.
Herrera essentially works to give his team an edge in midfield. He attempts to win the loose balls, intercept sloppy passes, and even recycle the ball when needed. A role that isn't the most glamorous in nature, but is as vital as any other.
When he was signed back in 2014, Herrera was pinned to be a crucial figure in an ageing midfield with the likes of Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher among others. In his first, and so far most prolific season, he was given the right to move into more attacking positions by Louis van Gaal, while Fellaini and Carrick sat behind him.
He repaid the Dutchman's faith by scoring six and assisting four in 26 games. To put that into context, Radamel Falcao scored four goals that season while Angel Di Maria scored only three. In terms of passing and creativity, Herrera played one key pass on average per game; a figure that he would improve over time.
Herrera's game time peaked in 2016/17 season when he amassed 2467 minutes in the Premier League and 810 minutes in the Europa League, which United went on to win.
However, with the club spending big money on Nemanja Matic in the summer of 2017, Herrera's time on the pitch this season has been extremely limited. He has played just 977 minutes in the Premier League this season, with 9 starts and 12 substitute appearances.
As far as United's Champions League campaign is concerned, Herrera played 375 minutes with 5 starts and 1 substitute appearance before seeing his team lose to Sevilla in the round of 16.
To sum it up, Ander Herrera does not seem to be worth the £32.5 million transfer fee that he cost Manchester United. Big money deals for Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have restricted his game time and his influence on the team's performance, and to put things into perspective, Toni Kroos moved from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid in the very same season for about £25 million. He has since gone on to win nine major trophies including two UEFA Champions Leagues, and although Herrera did play a major part in the 16/17 campaign when United won three trophies, his large transfer fee is unjustified.