Only hours before, Herrera—the 24-year-old Athletic Bilbao star—had remained on the bench for the duration of his side’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid. Everton manager Roberto Martinez, keen to bring in another midfielder before sanctioning Fellaini’s Everton exit, failed in a bid for Wigan’s James McCarthy.
First to Herrera, who was an unused substitute at the Bernabeu despite starting each of Athletic’s first two matches this season—both wins—and featuring in 29 of the club’s Primera Division matches in 2012-13.
Athletic president Josu Urrutia made United’s initial offer for Herrera public on Friday when he told Marca the English giants had failed to trigger the midfielder’s €36 million buyout clause, adding, “We told [United] that we are not negotiating over our players.”
But on Sunday, manager Ernesto Valverde not only omitted Herrera from the starting lineup but also left him sitting on the bench for the duration of the match, after which he told Jamie Jackson of the Guardian, “There has been quite a stir surrounding Ander.”
He added, “I don’t know what will happen. I want Ander to stay with us, and that is what I think, expect, will happen.”
In his two matches to start the season, Herrera, whom United manager David Moyes is targeting to operate alongside Michael Carrick in the centre of the park, has completed 83 percent of his passes, won nearly two-thirds of his aerial duels and averaged four defensive interventions per match. (Statistics courtesy of Squawka.com.)
Given United’s inability to get a foothold in the centre of the park against Liverpool on Sunday, a need for enhancement at this position will have only become more urgent for Moyes.
Fellaini, meanwhile, is likely the closer of the two to completing an Old Trafford switch, although Everton boss Martinez would prefer to sign up a replacement for the Belgium international before allowing him to leave.
To that end Martinez offered £12 million for Latics midfielder McCarthy over the weekend according to Simon Jones of the Daily Mail. Wigan chairman Dave Whelan—for whom Martinez worked while in charge of the FA Cup winners—rejected the approach. It was “still not near the value” at which he had pegged the 22-year-old.
Should he fail in his effort to land McCarthy, Martinez could well turn to Manchester City’s Gareth Barry, who hasn’t featured in the Premier League since the penultimate day of the previous campaign, per the Liverpool Echo.
In any event, it would look as though United are poised to land at least one, if not both, of their late-summer transfer targets. They have only to increase their interest in Herrera by an additional €6 million, and Everton are likely to find their Fellaini replacement in time for the 25-year-old to join the Red Devils as well.