Ander Herrera is heading to Manchester United after they reaching an agreement with Athletic Bilbao for the talented central midfielder.
Manchester United announced news of the transfer on Wednesday on their official website:
Manchester United is delighted to announce that, after triggering the buy-out clause in his contract on Tuesday, it has signed Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera from Athletic Club in Bilbao, pending the receipt of the International Transfer Certificate. He joins on a four-year contract, with an option to extend for a further year.
Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs said: "Ander is a fantastic young player, with great energy and creativity. We believe him to be one of the brightest young prospects in Spain and I am certain he will be a big hit with the United fans. I’m delighted he has made the decision to come to Manchester and play his part in the club’s future. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action on our summer tour to America.”
Ander Herrera said: "Signing for Manchester United is a dream come true. I have played at Old Trafford for Athletic Club in the UEFA Europa League and it was one of the highlights of my career so far. I have joined United to do all I can to help the team reach the club's objectives. Having arrived on Tuesday, I’m excited to now be living in Manchester and I can’t wait for my first game in United’s famous red shirt. I will never forget my time with Athletic Club and I’d like to thank the fans and staff for all their support and, above all, wish all my fantastic former team-mates all the best for the future."
Herrera was heavily linked to Manchester United during last summer's transfer window. He was viewed as a player capable of providing the link between the defense and the forwards, but United weren't able to get a deal done at the time.
It proved costly, as the club finished in seventh place on the Premier League table and lacked solid play from the midfield for much of the year.
Instead, the 24-year-old Spanish youth international stayed with Athletic and continued to improve his all-around game. He's played a key role in the midfield, both by helping to track back defensively and helping jump-start attacks.
He was even asked to push forward on a more frequent basis to help try to boost an Athletic attack that lacked assertiveness in the final third. WhoScored provided stats in January to showcase how he continued to evolve as a complete midfielder:
WhoScored gave him an impressive average match rating of 7.38 in La Liga play after he tallied five goals, five assists and 1.6 key passes per game in 33 total appearances last year.
That steady development in the center of the midfield is what caused top clubs to track his progress. Any time a player is capable of making an impact in so many different ways, it's going to generate a lot of attention. Versatility is a major asset in today's game.
Now Herrera will attempt to show he's worth the hype. As always, he should be given some time to acclimatise to his new surroundings, especially since he's joining a club in a transition period under new manager Louis van Gaal. It will take some time to build chemistry.
That said, everything he did with Athletic Bilbao and Zaragoza suggests he's still in the process of getting better.
As long as he's put into a position where his well-rounded skill set is given the opportunity to shine, he should have no problem making an impact sooner rather than later.
That's why United tried so hard to get him before last summer deadline passed by and ultimately did so this year. He should provide a much-needed playmaking boost in the midfield pivot for the Red Devils.
Herrera is a player on the rise. It will be interesting to see how he plays on a bigger stage.
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