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12th Apr 2015

The Weird Science of Ander Herrera at Man United

The break fast club...

Nooruddean Choudry

You spend your whole time obsessing over Vidal, Strootman, Pogba and Koke. Then, just when you’ve given up all hope of a complete midfielder, you realise he was there all along.

If it sounds like a John Hughes film, that’s because it is. It’s too good to be true. Ander Herrera is too good to be true.

He’s like a Weird Science creation of everything that United fans have been missing for years. Goals from midfield like old-school Scholes; crisp passing long and short like new-school Scholes; the tenacity of Nicky Butt; the intelligence and loveable nature of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The latter comparison is apt for more reasons than mere geniality. For a side that is blessed with its fair share of seasoned finishers, no one is quite as composed when lining up a shot at goal as Herrera. He is able to magic up that extra beat to set himself that alludes others.

And the charisma is important too. Like John Cusack, Matthew Broderick and Anthony Michael Hall before him, Ander has a boyish charm that invites affection. In a team full of transient egos, he is the one you’re rooting for. The brain, the athlete and the basket case rolled into one.

Of course, any self-respecting coming-of-age flick needs an authority figure to rail against and Ander has Van Gaal. Although the Dutchman is perhaps less Dick Vernon and more Carl the janitor; the sage dispenser of advice for our hero’s own good. It looks like it’s worked too.

Herrera is now more disciplined in his play; it’s less gung-ho and energetic, but it makes him far more efficient and cognitive in his forward bursts. A tighter script that still hits all the right notes. Stats like a third of all shots being on target and all of those resulting in goals are dreamy.

A testament to the 25-year-old’s attitude is that he didn’t sulk when dropped. Instead he remained committed to improving himself because he is genuinely grateful to be where he is. That said, his passing cameos were a message to Van Gaal: Don’t you forget about me.

The joy of Ander is not in the cold hard facts but the spirit he imbues – that of lovable everyman who happens to be a star. There is a sincerity and spirit to his play that is a throwback to simpler times. The fact that he tackles, tracks, passes, shoots and scores so well also helps.

Ander Herrera is some kind of wonderful and for that he can come back next Saturday as often as he wants.