The case for Ander Herrera
Background image: André Zahn, CC BY-SA 2.0
Officially instated as permanent manager [please hold your applause until the end], Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plans to drive Manchester United to the pinnacle of Europe. To do so, the squad requires a desperate overhaul. Solskjaer confirmed United will do summer business. First, there are six first-team players whose contracts expire this summer. What to do with them?
David de Gea and Andreas Periera are expected to renew in the near future. Club captain Antonio Valencia and versatile defender Matteo Darmian appear destined to leave after not finding a place in Ole's caretaker squad. Then there's the Spanish duo, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. You can read about Juan Mata here. In this space, I'll argue both sides of the question as to whether or not to keep the passionate midfielder at the club he so clearly loves. Sometimes love isn't meant to be, of course, and Herrera was linked to Paris Saint-Germain during the international break. Should United allow him to leave, on a free at that?
Here's how the case lays out.
Arguing for the defense
Herrera's biggest asset is that he 'gets' the club. A true leader in every fashion, the 29-year-old is incredibly determined and focussed. He knows what it means to wear the jersey. Not many players in the squad provide the same fire he displays for the Red Devils. Once upon a time wearing your heart on your sleeve counted for a great deal at Old Trafford. Now it does again under Solskjaer.
Adored by fans, he is the favourite to take the armband from Valencia when the quiet Ecuadorian departs. Solskjaer loves him too. No one understands the importance of a cult hero better than the Norwegian. Herrera always puts the club before his personal interests, even when it comes to his contract.
I’m not a selfish guy, I want the team to keep winning games, I don’t go crazy about my contract.”
In addition to not holding the team ransom on wages, Herrera's extension saves the club a hefty fee to purchase a commensurate replacement. The money would be better spent on renewing De Gea and signing a right winger or centre-back.
Letting a player with Herrera's commitment and leadership depart creates chemistry issues within the squad. Any replacement will require time to settle. Even a more technically astute player wouldn't fill the former Athletic Bilbao star's boots.
Arguing for the prosecution
Herrera is an important player for Solskjaer now. But ask yourself whether that's on the player's merits or the lack of alternatives. Fred still hasn't found his way in England. Time is catching up with Nemanja Matic. Scott McTominay needs another two years' seasoning at least.
Herrera's rash play is a liability for United. His passion recalls Roy Keane and Eric Cantona. Ander doesn't break opponents' legs out of spite or storm into the stands, but his temper cost United more than once during the past few years. He turns 30 in August, as well. Soon enough, he will lose a step. He'll be sticking a leg in more and more at the wrong time.
Part of the problem is his game fits between positions. He doesn't have the technical ability to play an advanced role and isn't a stay-at-home defensive-mid. His box-to-box play provides energy and the occasional screamer but it impedes both McTominay and Andreas Pereira. The 23-year-old Brazilian can be Herrera with more skill and less aggro if given the minutes. He won't get them if Ander stays.
While it is fair to say that Herrera is not the ideal starter for a club which aims to win big trophies, it certainly doesn't make him a less prolific player. United could use his experience for the greater good.
Even if Herrera is asking for a little more wage than his reported £75,000 per week, it's hardly extortion. Talk to Alexis Sanchez about that. The Spaniard is merely asking to be paid what he deserves, no more. Meanwhile, Pereira will benefit from another year under his tutelage. It's a colossal mistake to let Ander Herrera go for free.