It was reportedly only a misinterpretation of Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera’s release clause that stopped him from signing for Manchester United for a fee in excess of £24m on transfer deadline day, yet the 24-year-old is hardly a household name.
With fresh reports suggesting that an Old Trafford scouting delegation will observe Herrera once more in Bilbao’s upcoming clash with Granada we look at what he could offer David Moyes.
A more advanced playmaking hub
United’s passer-in-chief is Michael Carrick, who averaged just over 28 passes-per-game more than his midfield mucker Tom Cleverley, their next most prolific ball-player.
Herrera is a good deal more attacking than the Geordie metronome, yet he still found time and more importantly space to average 66 passes an outing in La Liga last term – of the seven players to manage more, all but one played for Barcelona.
A means of winning the ball back in attacking positions
The young Basque may be an attacking-midfielder, but that doesn’t mean he can’t tackle and he chipped in with an average of four a game in the league last term.
That’s almost one successful dispossession a game more than United defender Rafael who, in taking the ball off his rivals 3.1 times a match in 2012/13, was the Red Devils most prolific in that department.
With Herrera winning the ball back further up the pitch and at a greater rate than Moyes’ charges manage currently, the Old Trafford club could enjoy a greater control on possession and move towards a Barcelona-esque pressing game.
A committed creator in the middle
United’s leading assisters last season were Wayne Rooney with 12 and Robin Van Persie with eight.
After the dynamic duo, there was a gap back to wide players Antonio Valencia and Patrice Evra and those figures suggest a heavy burden of goal creation on the men entrusted with scoring the lion’s share for United.
Herrera’s raison d’etre is creating opportunities for other players and his inclusion in the middle of an attacking three would hopefully free up United’s purpose-built scorers to get back to profiting from the creativity of others.