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Ander Herrera is as comfortable in the No. 10 role as he is at the heart of midfield. Of course, United are replete with players who can play between the midfield and the strikers.
They are considerably less replete with quality deep-lying midfielders and so, for now, Herrera will most usefully be deployed in the heart of midfield.
However, it is much to be hoped that United’s midfield options will improve over the course of Herrera’s time at the club, and when they do, unleashing his full range of talents behind the strikers will certainly be an option.
Glimpses of his potential in this role were shown in pre-season, notably his two magnificent through-balls for Ashley Young against LA Galaxy. He, of course, played there for much of the second half of last season, for Athletic Bilbao.
His tough-tackling defensive prowess will also be tactically crucial should Van Gaal look to deploy a 4-3-3. If the Dutchman looks to use Mata as the most advanced of the midfield three, then Herrera can serve as a holding player, alongside, perhaps, a further new signing.
On the other hand, Herrera’s ability to unlock defences will be at its most effective should he be used in a more attacking role within a 4-3-3, perhaps with a new holding midfielder and Angel Di Maria.
A flexible midfielder feels like a pleasing novelty at United, and Herrera certainly fits that bill.