Monday, 18 December 2017

Herrera's regression after best ever season in Red

Ander Herrera enjoyed his best ever season in a United shirt last term and was rewarded with the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award for his efforts. The Basque was simply immense as the fulcrum of United's midfield with a series of lung-busting displays and was our man of the match in the Europa League final win against Ajax. There was also his magnificent shackling of Eden Hazard as Herrera man-marked Chelsea's creator-in-chief out of the match when the champions came to Old Trafford in April. He was even muted as United's next captain in waiting to replace the departed Wayne Rooney. 

This season, however, couldn't have been in starker contrast to last and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what's happened to Herrera. Those level of performances that we saw last term have been conspicuous by their absence.  Admittedly, he's had less playing time because of the potent partnership of new signing Nemanja Matic and the in-form Paul Pogba. Those two have been key to United's impressive form and Marouane Fellaini is also now ahead of Herrera in Jose's pecking order. Matic has been consistently impressive and Pogba changes the entire dynamic of the team with his pace, power and passing range. He had a slow start to life back at United and Herrera benefited from that, but roles have been reversed this time around. 
It seems to be the case that whenever Herrera gets his opportunity to shine, he doesn't take it. With Pogba suspended, he was poor in the derby against City and also underwhelmed in the win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. With Pogba having completed his ban, Herrera is likely to be consigned to a bench role once more in the coming weeks. 

When the Frenchman missed two months of the season through injury, many of us felt that he wouldn't be missed too much as we had a more than able deputy in Ander. He can't play the same role as Pogba, but he failed to exert his authority in midfield and it's hard to pick out a noteworthy individual performance. His dip in form could also be because of the change of system that Jose has implemented, with Herrera often forced into a deeper role rather than his favoured position further forward, with United lined up in a 3-4-1-2 system. In the infamous defeat at Huddersfield, he was even used as a makeshift centre-back in the second half. He then risked the wrath of his manager by publicly criticising the team - albeit with words that were totally justified.

In a season when many players have improved and stepped up their game beyond recognition - the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard to name but three - Herrera has regressed and seems stuck in a rut. 

He's too good a player for this dip in performances to continue, though, and form is temporary, class is permanent. 

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