5 Bold Predictions for Ander Herrera's Debut Season with Manchester United
Ander Herrera's pre-season is going well. He was the man of the match in Manchester United's recent demolition of LA Galaxy. Since then, he has played 45 minutes against Roma and Inter Milan and mostly looked assured.
Given that this will be his first season in a new league, in a new country, in a midfield that has been crying out for improvement, it would be wise not to heap too much pressure onto the young man's shoulders.
However, let us set wisdom aside and make some really bold predictions. None of them are guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. Some may be a flight of fancy too far, but none are impossible.
After all, Manchester United have signed a top-quality central midfielder. Surely anything is possible now...
He Will Be United's Player of the Season
It would be a remarkable feat for a player who has never played a minute of Premier League football, but Ander Herrera could be Manchester United's player of the season.
Last season, David de Gea swept United's awards, voted both fans' player and players' player of the season. Given how poor United's season was, it was only fitting that the goalkeeper should have been the player singled out for praise. After all, he was kept busy.
This year, however, it could be Herrera. If he plays to his potential, fans and fellow players will be so shocked by the sight of great midfield play that he will be a shoo-in for their votes.
Herrera combines fine passing with a combative, tough-tackling approach. He also loves a long-range shot and is fond of a dribble.
That sounds like an award-winning combination to me.
He Will Be Directly Involved in 20 Goals
Because of his love of a shot, and his fine passing ability, Herrera will score or assist 20 goals this season.
For Athletic Bilbao in La Liga last season, Herrera scored five and notched five assists. His season started slowly, and his position shifted. For United, he is likely to be a guaranteed starter in central midfield.
Twenty may be a big target, but Herrera is capable, and Louis van Gaal's 3-4-1-2 system should enable him to get forward in support of Juan Mata and the forwards.
He Will Be in the Premier League Team of the Season
Herrera will be such a success this season that the accolades will not just be United-centric. He will be in the Premier League team of the year. After all, his six goals and 14 assists will be hard to ignore.
Those making the selection will note Herrera's excellent defensive contributions, as he matches the 3.1 average tackles per game he made in La Liga last season.
Herrera will line up alongside Yaya Toure in the team of the year—or maybe Arturo Vidal, since we are all in fantasy mode.
He Will Help Tom Cleverley Regain Form and Confidence
Tom Cleverley looked bereft of form and confidence last season, but playing alongside Herrera will help him.
Cleverley's best showings at United happened at the very start of his first-team career. Playing alongside Anderson, the pairing looked dynamic and insightful.
Even the most generous commentator would rarely have used those adjectives to describe his recent form.
Herrera's dynamism, speed of passing and defensive cover may have a liberating effect on Cleverley. Do not be surprised to see a good deal of one-touch passing exchanged between the two.
Of all the bold predictions on this list, this is the one I would most happily stand behind.
He Will Win the League
This is the most fantastical of all.
United finished seventh in the league last season, and Louis van Gaal has described the squad as "broken" and "not in balance," per Anthony Jepson of the Manchester Evening News.
While he is obviously correct, it is much less broken than it was before Herrera's arrival.
The midfielder addresses United's most pressing issue. Between that and the "Van Gaal effect," it would not be a complete shock to see United again competing for the Premier League trophy with which they are so familiar.
So, player of the year, a load of goals and assists, helping other players improve and winning the league.
Not a bad made-up first season for the new signing. In truth, it is likely he will achieve less than that, but if he gets anywhere close, it will be a joy to watch.
All real statistics per WhoScored.com