Manchester United were excellent in their convincing win over the champions Leicester City and Jose Mourinho was vindicated in his decision to drop Wayne Rooney from the starting eleven. The side were less predictable and the build-up play was a lot quicker than it has been in recent matches. Ander Herrera came back into the starting eleven and was one of the best performers on Saturday. He was asked to sit deep, providing a shield for the defence. This deeper role also allowed him to get on the ball and use his passing range to great effect.
He has been used sparingly during the first six matches of the league season, with two starts and a further two sub appearances. However, it now looks like he could emerge as one of the key players for Mourinho this season. His performance for United against Feyenoord in the Europa League was impressive, as he finished the match with a 91% pass success rate. Moreover, he made four tackles and one interception, proving to his new manager that he can contribute defensively as well. It isn’t a part of his game that he is known for, but he can do it and could be a great foil for Paul Pogba in midfield.
Against Leicester City, Herrera broke up play effectively before using his passing range to get his side on the front foot. He launched several attacks from deep and offers more class on the ball than other players in the division that are deployed in a similar role. Although his ball retrieval skills aren’t as impressive, he is a far more complete player and Manchester United certainly benefited from that on Saturday.
The visitors allowed Manchester United to have possession and as such, Herrera wasn’t required to do much defensive work. However, he did finish the match with two completed tackles and six interceptions, showing that he can effectively win the ball when required. His tactical awareness was excellent and he rarely vacated his position in front of the back four. Although he joined as an attack-minded midfielder, Herrera attempted just one shot in the game, showing that he can adapt to a deeper role.
His passing has always been his most impressive attribute and that showed again on Sunday, as he finished the match with 88% passing accuracy. Herrera was the playmaker for Manchester United, as he dictated the tempo from deep. Only Paul Pogba attempted more passes during the match, which shows how important Herrera was to the build-up play. In the past, the Spaniard has been known for his ability to break down defences and create clear-cut chances. However, on Saturday, he made no key passes, as he wasn’t in a role that allowed him to and that is something that he will need to adjust to.
It was only one game and it came against an opposition that didn’t play well, but it looks like Herrera has an important role to play for Manchester United this season. The midfield options aren’t great and Mourinho needs to find a system that will get the best out of Paul Pogba. On Saturday, he made a crucial step of dropping Wayne Rooney, but he still hasn’t found his strongest side. Herrera showed that he can play a deeper midfield role and regularly win back possession. He has put himself in contention for a starting role, but he now needs to show that level consistently to make the spot his own.