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Ander Herrera and the taken down peg

Tuesday 15th August 2017
Nemanja Matic is now Jose Mourinho's top defensive midfielder. Ander Herrera is on the bench. For the tempestuous Basque, it's an opportunity to learn.

One of my favourite movie tropes is the troubled youth mentored by the wise old man until he strikes out on his own to become a hero.

The first such relationship I encountered was inย Mr Peabody and Sherman cartoons on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. Of course, Mr Peabody was a wise old dog and, because cartoon characters don't age, Sherman never grew old enough to strike out on his own.

Later on, I started watching the old Kung Fu television show with David Carradine. "Snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper."

Soon after came Luke Skywalker and Obi wan Kenobi. "These aren't the droids you're looking for."

Now we have London chav Eggsy and dapper Harry Hart in Kingsman. "Manners maketh man."
Harry's a bit more of a stuffed shirt than old Ben Kenobi. Still, the problem for both, as well as Master Po, is they must all die before their troubled youths transform into heroes. Sorry if that spoiled Kingsman for you. If it makes you feel better, Colin Firth is slated to miraculously come back from the dead for the sequel.

Oops. Done it again, haven't I?

Apologies. I just wanted to say the afterlife hopefully won't be Nemanja Matic's fate while mentoring Ander Herrera at Manchester United. Although only separated by two years, Matic (29) is a wise old man in the defensive midfield while Herrera (you do the math) remains a troubled youth.

There is no question Herrera loves Manchester United. As a young player coming up with Real Zaragoza and Athletic Bilbao, his dream, apparently, was to play at Old Trafford. His fantasy wasn't much different than Gareth Bale's reagarding the Santiago Bernabeu. Ander pushed hard to come to Manchester even after Ed Woodward notoriously botched his first move by sending a cabal of lawyers to close the deal.

Since arriving, Herrera has been extremely active in the community. He's also a huge United cheerleader on social media. Even after Jose Mourinho left him on the bench for the season opener at Old Trafford, favouring Matic, he happily retweeted the club's birthday greetings.

Fans rose to their feet, thunderously applauding Lukaku's first official Premier League goal in a United strip. Announcers heaped praise on his calm, accurate shooting, then Rashford's brilliant run and pass. Belatedly, they acknowledged Matic's insightful defending, which turned what should have been the Hammers' first real spell in possession into their demise.

For Ander Herrera, Matic needs to be recognised as the most important element in the goal's sequence. Controlled speed. Vision. Calm. He must snatch those pebbles from Matic's hand to regain his regular place in the United starting XI. Otherwise, enthusiasm and loyalty won't keep Jose Mourinho from telling him, "You're not the droid we're looking for."
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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