Manchester United look set to make their first signing of the Louis van Gaal era, with reports suggesting that Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera will be signed within the next few days.
Man United were interested in Herrera last summer in a transfer saga that culminated in a group of deadline-day-imposters posing as Red Devils officials attempting to do a deal with the player, but look to have finally got their man with Herrera expected to move to United within days.
Ahead of the move, we take a look at all you need to know about the possible new recruit.
Where Does He Play?
Herrera can either play as a central midfield player or as a number ten, not that United need any more of the latter. For Bilbao this season, he has mainly played as a number ten, in an attacking midfield role behind a lone frontman.
Given the number of players vying for striking and attacking midfield roles in Louis van Gaal’s side, Herrera would likely find himself as a central midfield player rather than the role he has been occupying this season, which is shown below in his action Heat Map from his most recent start.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Herrera manages to combine technical ability with brawn in a way that looks set to become an evolution of the typical Spanish midfield player. Along with Atletico’s Koke, Herrera is helping usher in a new type of all-round central midfield player in Spain and it is those qualities that make him well suited to the Premier League.
Last season he created 53 chances, but also managed to make 75 tackles as well. He completed 52% of his take-ons and won 43% of his aerial duels, while chipping in with five goals at the other end. At 6 foot tall he should be able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League, while also providing creative impetus going forward.
While his all-round strength ability to influence across the pitch is his main strength, his weaknesses are relatively few. He picked up seven yellow cards last season, making 46 fouls, to suggest that his love of a tackle can creep into indiscipline.
Perhaps harshly for Herrera, his main weakness comes when compared to the other players that United have been linked with. Herrera, inconsistent at times this season with a dip in form at the turn of the year, is not of the calibre of a Fabregas or Toni Kroos. Whether he will eventually enter that class remains to be seen, but at the moment he is not as far along in his development and will need time to adapt to life in Manchester.
Where Would He Fit In?
As above, he would likely have a positional tweak if he were to join United and be deployed as a central midfield player. This adds a degree of risk to the deal given his relative inexperience in the position, but would cover an area in which United badly need reinforcements.
Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley harldly look like a midfield of champions and Herrera would be a significant step up on that.
Last season he scored more goals, created more chances and made more tackles than all of Fletcher, Carrick, Fellaini and Cleverley.
Stand Out Stat:
Ander Herrera has won more tackles in La Liga this season (74) than any player in Spain’s World Cup Squad. Left out. pic.twitter.com/jX5wevn6g8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 13, 2014
Herrera scored five league goals last season, the pick of which came against Rayo Vallecano in March with a free-kick bent around the wall and into the bottom corner.
The fee reported by the BBC is said to be around £30 million for Herrera.
Herrera is a significant step up on the current crop of United midfielders – not exactly a tough proposition with the current state of United’s midfield – although is a bit of a risk for the money involved. He had a good season at Bilbao as a big fish in a relatively small pond, but at £30 million United are paying a premium for potential, given that Herrera is not yet in the same league as other reported targets.
It is a risk, but one that could pay off judging by his career so far.