A Tribute to Ander Herrera: Old Trafford's Crown Prince
In the summer of 2014, Manchester United announced the signing of a promising 24-year old midfielder, Ander Herrera from Spanish club Athletic BIlbao for a fee of €40 million- a fee which seemed excessive at the time, but as the love affair between the player and the fans has blossomed seems more and more like a bargain.
I myself greeted the news with skepticism, as it was not the sort of Galactico signing I had expected-not along the lines of Toni Kroos and Ivan Rakitic but he changed my mind quicker than I could say "Quien es este chico?" (Who is this guy?).
The first time I saw him play was against Queens Park Rangers, at Old Trafford, where he scored the second goal in a 4-0 win. It wasn't just the goal that caught my eye, but the way he moved on the pitch. He seemed to be everywhere-and he seemed to be doing everything. There is nothing more satisfying to see as a fan, than a player who gives his all, no matter the result. Herrera didn't just give 100%. He gave enough for the whole team, and it seemed to me that he was the leader on the pitch, not the captain, Wayne Rooney, and it seemed as though he was the heartbeat of the club.
Herrera's verve, his energy, his vigour and his passion for the club I love has made him an irresistible fan favourite. He has shown shades of Paul Scholes in his technical play, and attitude wise, it is like watching Roy Keane. He throws himself into every tackle and makes every pass with the same ambition-to make sure the ball ends up in the back of the net. With him, there are no gray areas-he either does or he doesn't.
Last season, the unofficial tag of 'Most Underrated Premier League Player' went, deservingly, to Leicester City's N'golo Kante, for the unheralded part he played in their fairytale triumph. The plaudits have continued for him this season-but almost up to the point where he has become overrated. This irks me, because in all the hype about Kante, Herrera doesn't get the credit he deserves. Take him out of the United engine room, and United's well-oiled machine could become a jumble of old, rusty parts. This is all without even mentioning his tremendous versatility.
He can play both attacking and defensive roles to perfection. He is the Beast to Paul Pogba's Beauty, cleaning up after him and doing the dirty work, making sure the Frenchman can express himself. The other half of him is his playing of Beauty to Marouane Fellaini's Beast, sliding exquisite through balls and cross-field passes, as well as exhibiting extraordinary control and balance on the ball, leaving Fellaini to use his elbows to devastating effect.
His best performance for United is a topic that has been done to death but it must be mentioned. The man-marking job he performed on Eden Hazard when Chelsea visited Old Trafford was one to rival even that of the world's top defenders. Chelsea's fans watched on in horror as Herrera effectively marked Hazard out of the game, haranguing him at every opportunity and making sure he didn't get a moment's peace.
Earlier this month, Herrera said in an interview that he'd wanted to be here since he played against United for Bilbao, as the atmosphere blew him away, and to me, it just seemed so perfect that he had been able to fulfill that dream as it was like having a fan on the pitch. It felt like he represented the entire Manchester United fanbase when he slipped on the famous red shirt, and proceeded to dazzle.
Peter Drury, while on commentary duty once remarked that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was "ruling his Old Trafford empire again". Now. with the Swede having reportedly accepted that his United career is over, the time is ripe for 'Heir'era (pun intended) to ascend the throne.
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