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17th Apr 2017

Garth Crooks has just paid Ander Herrera a pretty incredible compliment

A man-marking masterclass

Darragh Murphy

Ander Herrera’s performance against Chelsea on Sunday was the perfect display on which young midfielders should model their game.

The Manchester United man set up Marcus Rashford for the game’s early opener with a pass right out of the top drawer before he found the net, albeit fortuitously, shortly after half-time.

But while his contributions to the scoresheet might have decided the game, it was Herrera’s ability to nullify Eden Hazard’s attacking threat that most impressed fans and pundits alike.

Wherever the Belgian was, Herrera wasn’t far behind as he man-marked Hazard out of the game.

There were stages during which the Spaniard was in possession of the ball and, still, manager Jose Mourinho would be roaring at Herrera to remember to return to Hazard’s heels as soon as possible.

After the game, while memes of Herrera checking his pockets for Hazard did the rounds on the internet, Mourinho revealed that the targeting of both Hazard and Pedro was crucial to his strategy against his former side.

It came as no surprise to see Herrera make Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week, which is often bonkers but was pretty sensible this week.

But what stood out in the former Spurs striker’s selection was his comments on Herrera, as he described his ability to deal with Hazard as the the greatest display of man-marking in 35 years.

“Luck plays a part in most football matches and it could be argued Herrera had a large slice of it with the suspected handball that took the pace off an attempted Chelsea pass, allowing the Spaniard to produce a world-class through ball for Marcus Rashford to score,” Crooks wrote.

“His deflected second-half goal, which gave keeper Asmir Begovic no chance, was the final body blow for Chelsea – there was no way back for the Blues after that.

“However, it was Herrera’s dominance over Hazard that set the tone for United’s victory. Not since Italy defender Claudio Gentile outwitted Brazil legend Zico at the 1982 World Cup have I seen a marker nullify a top-class player so completely.”

Crooks is prone to getting carried away with things, having previously said that Liverpool would get relegated if Jurgen Klopp persisted with Alberto Moreno at left-back.

And while his praise of Herrera may have been *slightly* excessive, there’s no doubting that the midfielder ought to be lauded for his performance on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford.