Ander Herrera has dismissed speculation suggesting he could leave Manchester United by admitting he loves to play for the club and is ready to compete with the Red Devils' stacked midfield unit for a first-team place.
Italian outlet Tuttomercatoweb (h/t the Daily Star's Alex Harris) previously suggested Atletico Madrid and Valencia are interested in the Spanish technician after United signed Bastian Schweinstieger and Morgan Schneiderlin. Mundo Deportivo (h/t Teddy Cutler of the Independent) also linked Barcelona to his signature. However, Herrera is only thinking about the task of winning trophies with United.
His importance to Louis van Gaal's team increased as last season progressed. Alongside Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, Herrera will compete with Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind for a place in what is likely to be a midfield three.
However, he is excited by the task of proving his worth, reported David McDonnell of the Mirror: "After one season, I know how well I have to play to keep playing for Manchester United," he said. "I'm happy with my development last season, but this is Manchester United—I have to keep improving if I want to play for this club."
He believes additional competition is a "good challenge" for him at this stage of his career. "I love football, I love my job and I love to improve, so I don’t see that as a problem," continued Herrera. "I see it as a new challenge that will make me better."
The 25-year-old promises to be a key figure for the Red Devils next season, not least because the arrivals of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin could actually allow him greater freedom. Herrera had to remain disciplined when Carrick was injured last term—he didn't move forward too readily—but enjoyed a fantastic goalscoring record when Van Gaal was able to deploy a full-strength side.
This included six goals in seven shots on target after he netted in May's draw with Arsenal, a mark of the player's all-round efficiency. Herrera completed 89.2 percent of his passes last season, averaged 2.8 tackles and two interceptions per game, as recorded by WhoScored.com. This provides a snapshot of what he can achieve during his second year with the club.
"I love to have the chance to play for Manchester United," he said, a comment which makes itself known in his enthusiastic playing style.
Van Gaal is currently assessing his options ahead of next season. With his midfield now packed, attention has turned to the squad's defensive needs, and indeed, attacking numbers. Versatile winger Ashley Young provided quality in both areas last term and resurrected his United career, which previously appeared to be fizzling out.
Aston Villa, his former club, are "monitoring developments" over the 30-year-old's new contract, reported Simon Jones of the Daily Mail. Young has just a year left on his current deal and could ink an extension at any time, but he's currently available for a minimal fee until pen is put to paper.
Young previously admitted he wants to remain at Old Trafford, reported Kevin Palmer of ESPN FC:
I'm at one of the biggest clubs in the world so I want to stay here as long as possible. That's exactly what I want to do. I think a lot of people thought I had it done (a new deal) but I haven't. It's in the club's hands now so I will have to see how it goes.
I hope we can sort things out. There have been preliminary talks so I am just looking to go out on the pitch and leave my agent to take care of that.
The Englishman's newly uncovered versatility makes him a useful squad member. He can play on either wing, as a wing-back and even traditional left-back when needed. He ranked among United's best performers last season and deserves an extension after working hard to salvage his tenure with the club.
Van Gaal is ruthless, however, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if he believes Young's long-term future lies elsewhere.