On any other day, Marcus Rashford could easily have expected to be named Man of the Match after a performance like the one he produced against Chelsea last weekend. His pace, skill, deceptive strength and unrelenting effort rightly earned a standing ovation when Ibrahimovic came on for him late in the game.
But it was Ander Herrera who was rightly recognised as United’s stand-out player in a team that implemented Mourinho’s tactics to perfection across the board. He was tasked with keeping Hazard at the periphery, and executed his mission with unyielding focus. With Chelsea’s key creator unable to impact the game, and their wing-backs outmanoeuvred, United had a platform for continuous and menacing attacks. Incredibly, given his defensive duties, Ander was instrumental in both of United’s breakthroughs, providing a beautifully-weighted assist for Rashford’s goal, and getting himself on the score-sheet to make it 2-0.
Herrera’s man-marking masterclass naturally spawned all manner of memes, but also reignited the serious question of whether a club captaincy awaits.
Herrera, despite never enjoying the full faith of Louis van Gaal, has always been a popular player with most United fans. His passion and commitment have always been obvious, and he’s spoken repeatedly about how proud he is to be a Man Utd player. He just seems to get it.
After another man of the match performance in October against Liverpool, the calls were already out for Mourinho to give him the captain’s armband next season.
The “United never replaced Keano” cliché isn’t going away any time soon, but Herrera embodies many of the same attributes, and, as Samuel Luckhurst has suggested, “with his silk and steel, he is the classic Mourinho midfield prototype.” Balletic and bulldozing in equal measure, there arguably aren’t many midfielders more complete than our baby-faced Basque number-21.
The latest reports indicate that United have offered Herrera a new £120k/week contract (up from a frankly meagre £75k). At 27 years old, he should now be hitting his prime – he’s a player who can dominate the biggest games, and we can expect a level of consistency and maturity from him that isn’t yet evident in someone like Pogba, for instance.
Whatever happens with Rooney in the summer, I’d love to see Herrera’s ever-improving contribution and outstanding attitude rewarded with the United captaincy in 2018/19. If we’re lucky, we’ll have him at the club for another 5-7 years.
Do you agree that Herrera should be captain next season and beyond? Do you think Mourinho will make it happen? Let us know in the comments!