Being the biggest football club in the world, Manchester United can pretty much attract all the top players in the world. This is something that Louis Van Gaal was able to realise very soon into his tenure, with the like of Angel Di Maria and Falcao joining despite the fact the club wasn’t in the pinnacle of club football, the Champions League.
Although both players showed glimpses of quality, neither really impressed as much as supporters would have hoped thus far. Luke Shaw, when fit, at times looked fantastic, but his consistency let him down. He played very few games in his first season at the club, but this won’t worry the Manchester United hierarchy at this moment in time. Shaw will go on to play for the club hundreds of times and make a real mark on the international scene as first choice left back for England.
Whilst Daley Blind has filled in fantastically in a number of positions over the course of an injury hit campaign for the club, he was never able to nail down just one position in the team. One week he could be playing left back and the next his favoured position of defensive midfield acting as a destructor in order to break up the opposition’s game. Victor Valdes received very minimal game time due to the excellence of David De Gea, which has already been raved about by many a thousand of people on fans forums, blogs and social media alike.
It was obvious that Louis Van Gaal’s first season in charge was never going to bring rip roaring success straight away, he still passed his main test of finishing top 4 with flying colours by the way, but perhaps the biggest surprise during his sort tenure so far has been the excellence of Ander Herrera. When he signed, there were doubters over Herrera’s ability. He wasn’t playing for a juggernaut sized club therefore many doubted him as a player (nonsense as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus had all been knocked back by Athletic Bilbao and the player’s representatives already, as his first choice of club to join was always Manchester United.)
There were concerns that whilst he may have been able to fit into the less frantic environment of La Liga, the constant box to box action of the Barclays Premier League would be too much. Again, nonsense. At 6 foot tall and energy to burn he always had the type of frame that would be very well suited for the English game. Manchester United had courted him ever since the arrival of David Moyes to the club yet for whatever reason had failed to make a successful move for him previously in order to force a deal through. When Van Gaal joined he admitted that Herrera was a player that the club had suggested they acquire along with Shaw, but due to the fact he liked both players anyway, he agreed to sanction moves for the pair.
Herrera was able to adjust to life in England well, perhaps better than Angel Di Maria and Falcao were able to. His grasp of the English language is good and Bilbao for much of the year has very much a similar climate to that of Manchester. The size of the city of Bilbao in relation to Manchester is also very similar. All of these little things make a difference to the performance of a player. A happy player off the pitch will often translate as such to a well performing player on the pitch. This was very much the case for Herrera.
Although he failed to hit the ground running as much as he would have liked, an injury after coming on as a substitute in the first match of the season against Swansea meant he missed the subsequent two matches, his performance in match number four against QPR was a joy to behold. In this game he was able to show his ability to find little pockets of space in order to play balls out to the wingers quickly. He ran the show from the middle of the park and rarely gave possession away. Despite the fact it was against a shambles of an opposition, this performance came with a first goal and an assist for his new club and it was just a sign of the good things to come.
It is a common saying in football that the reason why the top players are at the very pinnacle of the game and the players in the lower realms of the football world, is the fact that the top players are able to perform at such a high level consistently. It is no good being in the cycle of playing one very good match before playing five very poor ones. The top players must be able to perform week in week out, often with very heavy travelling schedules. This consistency is exactly what Herrera has been able to show. The excellence of his range of passing and calmness when in possession of the ball has been fantastic. He knows exactly when to play the ball long or when to keep the ball by going backwards and slowing down the tempo of the game.
At times during the season he looked like the only player in the team who had the confidence to take a shot on goal. Some of the goals he scored, namely his fantastic swivel and hit against Yeovil in the F A Cup. It is a dear shame that he was unable to play in midfield alongside Michael Carrick as many times as would have been hoped for before the season had started. Unavoidable circumstances put a dampener on this plan. Yet still, Herrera was able to fit in to the team very well and with new signings arriving this summer it is a certainty that United supporters will be seeing a lot more of the young Basque man yet.
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