Ole Gunnar Solskjær could not have asked for a better start to life as Manchester United’s caretaker manager following the dismissal of José Mourinho. Five games in and the Norwegian manager has a perfect record, having scored 16 goals along the way, only conceded three and kept two consecutive clean sheets.
Most importantly, though, Solskjær has rediscovered Man United’s vigour and attacking prowess. Lost as it may have seemed under the Portuguese manager before him, the Red Devils are beginning to come out of their shell once again and play the type of football the Old Trafford faithful are used to witnessing.
Manchester United’s forward players – the likes of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – have been on the receiving end of the plaudits, but a lot of the good work being done has come from the core of the team: their midfield. Both Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba have added a lot in terms of a different dimension to United’s attack and allowed the attacking triumvirate to constantly play on the front foot.
While the Red Devils are not going to be playing relegation fodder week in, week out, these opening five games have been a good period where Solskjær can assess the squad and implement his own style on the players. Judging by their performances and results, it appears to be having a positive effect on the squad.
Herrera has been a pivotal part in Man United’s resurgence since the arrival of Solskjær, often controlling games and adding his tenacious side to a combative and dynamic midfield. The Spaniard, who was signed in 2014, has become a fan’s favourite for obvious reason: he plays with his heart on his sleeve at all times and rarely disappoints with his application.
The former Athletic Bilbao midfielder might have found himself in and out of the team under Mourinho towards the end of the second year and especially in the third, but he will be one of Solskjær’s trusted lieutenants on the field, providing in both attack and defence. He might not be the quickest to cover the ground, but the Spain international’s relentless approach to the game has seen him outlast perhaps more talented players that Manchester United have signed since being at the club.
Pogba has sprung to life under Solskjær, with his attacking displays registering a lot of attention and propelling Man United forward in the goals department. While The Frenchman is bombarding forward to support his offensive players, Herrera is waiting on the outside of the box, ready to pounce on anything that spills out. As seen with his goal against Cardiff City, Herrera has a knack of scoring long range goals – something that he has worked on considerably since arriving in Manchester.
Some fans might have turned their nose up to signing a player for £30 million back in 2014 when they were none the wiser of who he was; and although the market has become hugely inflated in recent years, Herrera’s price tag now looks pennies on the dollar for what he has given Manchester United in return.
Not many players in this current era can deliver the same type of enthusiasm and passion on a regular basis as well as Herrera has done so. There are respectable discussions between fans which are in favour of awarding either David de Gea or Herrera the captaincy under a new full time coach.
Even through the darker period of Manchester United with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and even Mourinho, Herrera rarely played noticeably poor. He might have dropped his level somewhat as the team had, but he was still an absolute standout when things got tough, constantly trying to drive the team forward and evoke hunger into his teammates.
And yet, even with all of the great work that Herrera has done over the length of his contract, Manchester United have still not agreed terms with him over extending that deal past this summer. As this stand, Herrera is free to leave the Red Devils at the end of the season. From what the fans have seen from him over the past few years, they are in agreement that the club should be prioritising his contract in order to get it over the line – along with De Gea’s.
Herrera is a typical tenacious player that has the desire to win. He might bend the rules and be snarly at times, but he has been Manchester United’s constant performer that has kept his standards high. Now, under new management in Solskjær, the Spaniard is once again showing his true capabilities as a box-to-box midfielder and reaping the rewards.
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