Summer transfer season is now in full swing, and we’ve already had our fair share of the improbable. Be it the endless Suarez to Real/Barca rumours or PSG coughing up £50 million for David Luiz, the World Cup hasn’t distracted managers and scouts everywhere from looking to pick out the best talent at the cheapest price. After a Fellaini of a transfer window last summer for Manchester United, the pressure is on van Gaal to infuse some fresh blood into Old Trafford’s dying veins, and it looks like the Dutchman has gotten off to a perfect start with the supposed transfer of Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera chugging along to completion over in Manchester. Here we take a tactical look at the midfielder, and see how he’ll fit into the United set-up.
24; a perfect van Gaal target. The Dutchman is known for his ability to bring the best out of young player; his Netherlands squad is one of the youngest at the World Cup (average age: 26.46), and his work with stars like Denis Bergkamp and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at Ajax gives an indication as to what to expect at Old Trafford next season. Herrera will be able to devote his best years playing for United, and an easier schedule due to the absence of European football(for a year at least) will be ideal for the young midfielder to grow in next season.
Central Midfield. Although he usually operates in the No. 10 role, United’s depth in that position will mean Herrera will likely be pushed back into the heart of midfield, responsible for winning the ball from opposition attackers and initiating attacks either down the flanks or running at defenders through the middle. David Moyes also realised the value of such a player in a side, which is why he tried (but failed) to recruit the youngster last summer.
It would be wrong to label Herrera as solely an attacking or a defensive midfielder. In truth, he is an all-rounder at the heart of the side; his creativity is visible in his ability to exploit spaces when passing and his robust tackling is evident throughout the game. On the flip side of that, he committed 46 fouls for a total of 7 yellow cards last season, which suggests there is still room for improvement in the midfielder’s game; however, no one will be able to fault him for not putting in effort over the 90 minutes, an accusation levelled at United players more than once this season.
His balance can be demonstrated by a look at some of his statistics; last season he created a total of 53 chances (averaging 1.61 per game) and also managed to make 75 tackles. He boasts a take-on success rate of 52%, but also a decent pass completion rate (81%) and added 5 goals to Bilbao’s tally over the course of the year. A look at his pass types displays a tendency to be the focal point of attacks, with a significant number of his passes sprayed forward (60%), and his experience as a No. 10 will help him gel easily with whoever United choose to play in that position on a given matchday.
Where to play him/How much to pay for him
The one thing Louis van Gaal doesn’t need is a No. 10, so it is likely that Herrera will permanently occupy one of the two (or three, depending on United’s formation) central midfield spots up for grabs. It can be argued that his inexperience at that position will be a hindrance to United in the early stages of the campaign but even so, Ander represents a significant upgrade on Old Trafford’s current bunch.
Most sources are quoting a £25-30 million price tag, and given that United have the money to spend this season, that appears to be a bargain price for someone with so much potential; it also helps that he plugs one of United’s biggest gaps in midfield. Van Gaal will be looking to make a statement with his first signing, and closing a deal that his predecessor couldn’t close would undoubtedly lift spirits inside and outside the United camp.
Verdict: Hand him a jersey, Louis!
Stats courtesy of Squawka.com