Why Manchester United Are Right to Pursue Ander Herrera

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2014

Should United push the boat out for Herrera?
Should United push the boat out for Herrera?David Ramos/Getty Images

The end of the summer transfer window was something of a farce for those of us fortunate enough to support Manchester United.

According to multiple reports, including this one from The Guardian, United paid more than necessary for Marouane Fellaini. A summer spent in apparently futile pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, and the last minute attempts to sign Sami Khedira and Fabio Coentrao, pale in comparison with the extraordinary story of United's attempts to negotiate with Athletic Bilbao over the purchase of Ander Herrera.

Moyes has much to ponder
Moyes has much to ponderAlex Livesey/Getty Images

Allegations of imposters (later denied, see previous link for details) and an apparently significant difference in valuation meant that the deal collapsed in fairly spectacular fashion. 

United fans who do not follow Spanish football remember Herrera as a player who dominated our midfield in a 2011/12 season Europa League clash. Should United continue their pursuit of the player, in hopes that a deal can be brokered? 

Whilst questions remain about the viability of the deal, it may be worth the trouble. As I always do in matters of Spanish football, I discussed the subject with my podcast co-host, Ed Barker, editor of United Rant, a well established source of United analysis: 

Herrera is very neat and tidy in possession as you would expect with a high-level Spanish player. He rotates the ball quickly and effectively.

He is determined and energetic—gets about opponents well and makes a few tackles, and gets forward too, runs with the ball and has a shot from distance now and then. He is pretty flexible. He can play in wider positions (although this is definitely not a major strength). He is first and foremost a central midfielder.

He had a very good game against Almeira a couple weeks ago when he also scored. 

So far, this all sounds excellent. You would struggle to find a United supporter who does not think we are absolutely crying out for strength in depth, and enhanced quality in the centre of midfield.

With Michael Carrick having a distinctly below par season and Paul Scholes definitely, properly for sure having retired this time, a player who can rotate possession well, contribute with goals and assists and offer a degree of tactical flexibility sounds like just the tonic. I asked Ed about the potential downsides of the transfer: 

He's slight. Will the physical challenge be too much in England?

He has been in poor form this season and has been shunted out to the right quite a lot. One may well follow the other.

£30m+ is too much. He's a good player but there are loads of risks in signing him. You would expect more of a guarantee for his price.

It is unlikely a club with Bilbao's reputation in the transfer market will move a great deal on price. Their distinctive transfer policy means they have a stronger imperative to hold onto their star players. Juventus had to wait to sign Fernando Llorente on a free transfer in order to finally get hold of a player they had pursued for some time. 

Given David Moyes' reputation as a diligent operator in the transfer market, the idea of overpaying for a player will surely not appeal to him. But as a fan, does it really matter? There are downsides to expensive transfers. They push up the price of future transfers and they can add pressure to the new signing's early career.

Ultimately, United's current need is such that it might just be a necessary evil to pay over the odds to secure a player who could make an enormous difference to our on-field fortunes. It is a gamble, but on balance, perhaps one worth taking.