Ander Herrera has the potential to be a Manchester United star, but he currently pales in comparison to Paul Pogba and Toni Kroos, according to Red Devils coach Nicky Butt.
The Class of '92 star, always an honest professional, believes United have captured a talent with something to prove in England. He indicates the Premier League club should be pleased with their efforts to land the 24-year-old Spaniard in a crowded market where world-class quality is difficult to attain, as reported by Stuart Mathieson of the Manchester Evening News:
He was at the level where you just had to take note of this player because there are not many top midfielders you can get, in my opinion. You can all talk about Paul Pogba or Toni Kroos or whoever but these kind of players are not easy to get. So you have to widen your net and Herrera is a bonus.
He is at a level where he can play at a club like Manchester United and given a bit of time he can excel. He can become a star player for us.
Butt also noted fans may need "to be patient" with the ball-playing midfielder, saying his £28.85 million price-tag, per Sky Sports, doesn't mean supporters can expect "miracles" right from the off. Herrera is not an explosive player, or someone who is going to win many matches through his goals or assists, but he does influence proceedings in a quieter way.
Comfortable when playing in the centre of midfield, further forward or to the right, Herrera is a busybody. He averaged an impressive 3.5 tackles per match during his 33 La Liga appearances for Athletic Bilbao last season, while managing to get forward with 2.6 shots on target each game, as noted by WhoScored.com. As we can see below, his vital stats are comparable to both Pogba and Kroos:
|Ander Herrera vs. Paul Pogba and Toni Kroos|
|Player||Domestic Apps. 2013-14||Pass Accuracy||Tackles per match||Total Goals||Assists|
|Ander Herrera||31 (2)||80.6%||3.1||5||5|
|Paul Pogba||33 (3)||83.6%||2.3||7||7|
|Toni Kroos||24 (5)||91.9%||1.8||2||4|
Herrera is confident on the ball, despite his lack of electric pace. He is a keen dribbler and should be considered someone who can overcome the opposition's threat with a clever step or change of emphasis. Much like Kroos, he operates best when linking play together, setting up attacking moves with an accurate pass and exerting influence behind the forward line.
Granted, he isn't the marquee name United fans crave, but this transfer window was always going to throw up a mix of acquisitions for the rebuilding club. Not everyone can arrive with the obvious impact of Arturo Vidal—who isn't for sale according to Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta, per BBC Sport—but Herrera's quality is revered by many of those who watch him regularly.
Popular Spanish football expert and Bleacher Report columnist Guillem Balague compared Herrera to one of the best in is recent column for The Telegraph, signalling United fans have plenty to get excited about:
An intelligent, quick attacking midfielder with a great brain and a superb attitude he is not dissimilar to his idol, Andres Iniesta, who might or might never get Andres highs but he is nevertheless considered by many to be the logical successor in the Spanish side to Barcelona’s mercurial maestro.
If such lavish praise comes close to the truth, Herrera's move will be a success. United's quest to land Kroos is all but over after he agreed to join Real Madrid, per Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail, while Paul Pogba's return to Old Trafford remains extremely unlikely.
These star names would certainly boost the morale of fans after last season's seventh-placed finish, but they will be quickly forgotten if Herrera becomes a key player. He certainly needs a Pogba or Vidal-type destroyer to sit alongside him, but the Basque player's quality shouldn't be overlooked due to his relatively unknown nature in England.
Much like Butt himself, Herrera's often under-the-radar influence could be key to an era of success at the club, where he may allow a host of more obvious stars excel through his selflessness to the team.