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Herrera – A major part of Van Gaal’s rebuilding process

It’s fair to say that Guillermo Varela, David Moyes’ first signing, hasn’t made a great impact at Old Trafford. But you can expect much more from Ander Herrera. As his £29 million fee suggests, the Basque midfielder will be major part of the rebuilding process under Louis van Gaal.

Herrera starred as a dynamic number 10 for Athletic Bilbao last season, dictating the flow of games as they secured Champions League qualification. His ball circulation was particularly impressive, whether exchanging short passes with Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Rico, or teeing up the lone striker, Aritz Aduriz. According to Squawka data, he created 1.86 chances per 90 minutes in the league – greater than every United player in his position except Juan Mata (2.42).

Unlike Mata, his tally of goals and assists isn’t outstanding: he’s yet to score a brace, for example. So it’s likely he will operate in a deeper-lying role at United. His lean frame – he’s no, say, Nemanja Matic – is deceptive. Marcelo Bielsa preferred him as an anchor, but also suggested he “could become one of the best players in that position [number 10].” He’s no stranger to tough tackles, collecting seven yellow cards over the course of last campaign.

Exactly the type of player, then, who can get Marouane Fellaini ticking again. As the pivot in a 4-2-3-1 – although Van Gaal tends to favour a 4-3-3, and his 3-5-2 has transformed the Netherlands – they can form a formidable partnership. However, he could well be muscled off the ball against more physical sides, and is far from his best when forced out wide. A plan B might be needed: someone more industrious covering for Herrera, allowing the 24-year-old to express himself.

There’s also the possibility of bulking up. Jose Mourinho has made similar comments about Oscar: by no means a lightweight, but often underwhelming in the second half of last season.

The only other question mark is his lack of big game experience, especially when you consider the other names to have circled the rumour mill, such as Cesc Fabregas, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger. He hasn’t received a senior call-up for Spain or been part of a title race – the level where, you’d imagine, Van Gaal would like to reach in the next couple of years – but it’s a challenge he will relish.

He seems to understand the size of the club, who he came up against in the 2012 Europa League – “the best game I’ve ever played,” he told FourFourTwo recently – and described United’s bid last summer as a “big compliment.” It even appeared to affect his form in the first few games back, but he managed to focus himself. Settling into a new country shouldn’t be a major issue, having already played alongside Mata and David De Gea.

It’s little surprise that Athletic were reluctant to let him go. A bright future at United awaits.

About Tom Parfitt

Tom is a footballer writer who has written for The Independent, FourFourTwo, ShortList and WSC. Follow @tparf on Twitter.

View all posts by Tom Parfitt »



  1. Imran says:

    64 mil in one day? Talk about glazereconomics.
    The other thing is that Manchester united don’t just buy a footballer, its usually a very Good human being whose very Good at football. Maybe being one of the biggest clubs gives us that advantage, more big clubs following that example would help, especially our closest neighbours, but their not really a big club are They, so no use of expecting anything from that lot.

  2. ashtheking says:

    The best attribute with this kid he likes to touch and move the ball very much which none of our current midfielders do. Both mata and kagawa love to do that but the problem is they had to go deep and do that , now they will have Herrera doing that. We needed a player who loved to be involved in possession and not someone who just keeps on attempting long balls aka carrick.

    Also I like how you mentioned Fellaini. People may not rate Fellaini and may call him shit and useless but I beg to differ. Fellaini really missed a midfielder like Herrera. Fellaini is not a cm, he loves playing behind the striker who will win you possession and that’s where Herrera. Will enjoy playing with him. I could be wrong and Fellaini may be sold but I won’t mind giving Fellaini one more season. More than Fellaini i fear for kagawa. I really want kagawa to showcase his real talent here but I fear he would be sold.

  3. trevor knightsmith says:


    I agree, have never rated Fellaini, but think he should be given a bit longer to prove himself, if he hasn’t by January then sell .

    In all fairness he hasn’t looked out of place in the world cup.

  4. slim says:

    Please for he love of everything holy, he’s not a ball winner, he can get stuck in but his attributes are suited to the number 8 role. He will need a ball winner/tough tackling midfielder behind him

  5. ashtheking says:


    Yes he is not a ball winner like. Carrick or Fellaini but he is more like a Xavi who likes to be invlolved more. He will play a quick flow football and will enjoy playing with mata , januzaj and kagawa.

  6. slim says:


    Hopefully we can draft someone in to perform the ball winning duties

  7. slim says:

    However Fellaini is NOT a MF, thought we’d been over this already. It’ll be interesting to see what LVG does with him though

  8. j sman says:

    Finally we have official signings. Both are young and full of potential. It seems like we will be signing players as they are eliminated from the world cup. So we will be waiting to see which dutch and potential german players are coming to old trafford. I am relieved that we aren’t going to be waiting until the final day.

    Van Gaal signs 2 good players before he starts while david moyes signs fallaini during deadline day lol

  9. Blacksocks says:

    We still need a central defender and with Garay now moving to Russia I wonder what LVG and Ed have up their sleeves now? Hummels has been mooted in the press and Vermalen allegedly bid for. I would prefer the former although Vermalen would be an improvement. Possibly another central midfielder, Carvalho and to add some pace and youth (plus a great name) Memphis Depay and that would complete a quite spectacular summer of transfers in.

    I suspect a few players to be shipped out too. I wish Buttner every sucess, he put a good effort in against Munich (despite not being fully fit) but never quite looked good enough. Anderson, Young, Cleverley and Nani can all be culled IMHO.

    Ed W has had a lot of stick on this site but fair play, two quality signings in 2 days. Over paid in the case of Shaw but that was always going to happen, whoever signed him.

    Finally – Welcome Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw to the greatest football club in the world.

  10. The One says:

    I think it’s really unfair to compare Moyes 1st signing with LvG’s (Guillermo Varela vs Ander Herrera). It’s akin to hitting Moyes beneath the belt and kicking a men who’s already down. Varela, a relative unknown, was never a Moyes signing. I believe all the groundwork for that signing was already done before Moyes’s appointment and he merely ‘agreed’ to it (Varela being someone bought more for the potential that might be fulfilled in the near future). Besides, Moyes might have also already set the wheel in motion for Herrera’s signing this time round, albeit with that unsuccessful attempt to sign him last summer.

  11. Tommy says:

    @The one

    Cant compare the 2 signings youre correct, Varella has shown good potential but thats what it is at the moment potential (Shame he is uraguyian and he might have to one day player with the sewer rat), I also read that it was Graham hunter who took a phone call from Moyes about herrera and informed him of the buy out clause so without that knowledge who knows we might have been paying far more than the £29million. I like the writer mentioning Fellani, hes looking good and a totally different player in a Belgium shirt and he definatly deserves one more season, no player should be discarded after a year

  12. dannysoya LOVES USAIN BOLT says:

    I still think it was disastrous to pay over the odds for Marouane but in a 4-3-3 system he will flourish as an advancing midfielder and I expect him to at least improve. I never expect him to justify the 27 million pounds we paid for him though but it isn’t time to offload him just yet. One more chance.

  13. The One says:


    Agreed re: Fellaini. I think people have been too quick to dismiss Fellaini. They just had to have a scapegoat for the team’s poor form and there was no one better than him because of his previous association with Moyes at everton. Fellaini never had a proper pre-season with the team (I think that helps a player bed in more quickly) and had his share of injure problems.

    I agree that he should be given another chance but then again, he might not fit into LvG’s plans. It’ll be a shame though as he was really keen on playing for us and I do always have a soft spot for players who genuinely want to wear the red of United. He’ll not be a great loss though if we can get in a couple more world beaters into our midfield, like say, Vidal for a start.

  14. Tommy says:

    @The one

    Its also really difficult for any player to come into a srruggling side and expect performances, if United were flying we would have probably seen a different Fellani and I am sure some on here will say I am making excuses which is not the case. I also like the fact he give up £4million to come here so obviously wants to make it at United

  15. The One says:

    @Tommy, well said mate, I overlooked that point.

  16. Sparkz says:

    @Ash – Fellaini won’t be playing behind the striker though. There’s a whole list of players who’ll have that role. Fellaini would probably do well in a 3 man midfield, alongside maybe Carrick and Herrera. But what if we sign another centre mid, or if LVG decides to move Rooney deeper? (Also if he is playing a 4-3-3 where do Rooney and Mata fit in?)

    I think Fellaini will probably end up being a useful squad player, someone who comes into the side now and again. If I’m honest, I can’t see him ever being a mainstay of the team, but happy to be proved wrong


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