Friday 19 May 2017

Captain in waiting Herrera caps a brilliant season with coveted award

David de Gea's three-season hold on the club's prestigious Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award was ended by compatriot Ander Herrera on Thursday.

The race to win this season's prize was expected to be one of the most difficult to call and so it proved - with the shortlist narrowed down to Herrera, Antonio Valencia and top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Eric Bailly could consider himself unlucky to miss out after a fine debut season, and Juan Mata has also enjoyed another impressive campaign, until he was hampered by a recent groin injury.

Zlatan sits top of the goalscoring charts with 28 and would surely have hit the rare landmark of 30 in a season if not for that cruel injury against Anderlecht.
His prolific campaign helped United to the Europa League final and it was his two-goal contribution that proved the decisive difference against Southampton in the EFL Cup final.

For the winner Herrera, however, the award cemented his status as a fans favourite and has capped a rise from squad outcast to indispensable asset. 

The Basque was signed by the club from Athletic Bilbao in 2014 but lacked consistency and conviction under Louis van Gaal and struggled to hold down a regular first-team place.

Herrera seemed unsure of his role in the side, LVG seemingly never trusted him and he became an outcast in the Dutchman's rigid and tedious Old Trafford regime. 

Deployed in a deeper midfield role under Jose, those early struggles are now a distant memory as Herrera's combative, all-action and whole hearted performances have won him many admirers. 

No one has made more appearances than his 49 in United's testing 62-match season, underling an importance that saw him earn a much-longed for senior debut for Spain against England in November. 

Herrera may not be the snarling, in-your-face, raging bull Roy-Keane esque leader that we perhaps associate with a United skipper, but he has all the credentials of a future captain. 

Softly spoken but yet not afraid of winding opponents up and getting stuck in - Herrera's a fantastic exponent of "the needle" -  he speaks with a passionate love of the club and its fans rarely seen in a foreign player. 

He has an understated ability to inspire those around him, is known as a vocal organiser both on the field and in the dressing room and only N'golo Kante can top him for work rate and energy. 

With Wayne Rooney in the twilight of his career, Herrera has to be United's captain in waiting. 

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