Manchester United have proven they have what it takes to finish in the top four when they dismantled fierce rivals Chelsea and won 2-0 at Old Trafford during the weekend in what was arguably their cleanest and most complete performance of the season. And behind that impressive victory was one man: Ander Herrera.
The 27-year-old Spaniard came to Manchester United from Athletic Bilbao back in 2014 amid much fanfare during the reign of Louis van Gaal but his performances since have split fans and pundits alike. While many admire his eye for creating chances, many see him as a defensive liability with the Basque-born player seemingly lacking in terms of keeping the ball and taking on opponents to regain possession – crucial skills a midfielder like Herrera should possess.
After average performances in the last two seasons, it seems the midfield dynamo is now starting to flourish at Old Trafford. His form this season has slowly been improving and it all culminated in spectacular fashion last Saturday, in his side’s monumental clash against league leaders Chelsea.
Entrusted with the task of man-marking Eden Hazard, the former Bilbao man worked his magic beautifully on the pitch. He had managed to keep the usually nimble and creative Hazard at bay, silencing the Belgian and shutting down Chelsea’s supply chain. the midfielder won the ball eight times in that match, all coming from the right-hand side where Hazard was deployed.
Herrera also kept Hazard close while off the ball, taking on the Belgian on the pitch. Hazard only made 59 touches during the match, and he wasn’t even able to make a run towards the box – not even once. The former Bilbao midfielder had Hazard’s number.
Apart from his defensive duties, the Spanish international also fulfilled his attacking duties impressively. 17 of his 43 passes during the game were forward passes, cutting through Chelsea’s defence like hot knife through butter. All those 17 passes made their way to the final third. Herrera certainly did his part on the attack.
The player also had the insight to shift flanks when needed. When the opportunity arose, the Spaniard lunged on the chance and scored a brilliant, albeit fortuitous, goal which sealed United’s victory over Chelsea on a clear day at Old Trafford.
Herrera United’s has truly gone a long way in terms of skill on the pitch ever since his arrival in the red side of Manchester two years ago. His superb performance last weekend sees to that, and it has certainly silenced his doubters.