It has become clear that United’s main target for the 2018 summer window is to buy another central midfielder. This news indicates that Mourinho would like to play a 4-3-3 next season, the formation that gets the best out of Paul Pogba. United have a capable CDM in Matic, but are missing another midfielder to play on the right side of the trio. Players like Jorginho, Kovacic, and Milinkovic-Savic have all been linked to Manchester, and many expect at least one to join the club next summer. However, as the January window has just come to a close, there is still another 4 months until the next transfer window opens in June. This means United will have to deal with what they have until the end of the season. However, they might just have the best man for the job sat on the bench.
It is now incredible to think that Ander Herrera was named the clubs player of the season for 2016/17. At the time, however, the award was well deserved. Herrera was a key part of a United side full of players acclimating to their surroundings. New signings Pogba, Zlatan, and Mkhitaryan were still getting used to the Premier League, while youngsters Rashford, Martial, and Lingard were still learning how to perform on a consistent basis. Herrera also shone on the biggest stages, with the Spaniard assisting the game winning goal in the EFL Cup final and starting the Europa league final. He also had the performance of the season, shutting down Hazard as United beat Chelsea.
Herrera never got the chance to really kick on this season, however. He was replaced by Matic in the starting XI, and got few opportunities off the bench. When he finally got a chance, he had to replace an injured Pogba, meaning the defensive minded midfielder was now given more responisibilty going forward. He suffered in this new role, and found himself back on the bench after Pogba’s return. The Frenchman has hit a poor run of form recently, as he is played alongside Matic in a two-man midfield, resulting in him having to track back a lot more than he is used to. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Pogba is best in a three-man midfield, and Herrera is the ideal player for that additional midfield role.
Herrera would thrive in a midfield three next to Pogba and Matic, as it would allow the Spaniard to show how well rounded of a player he is. His defensive prowess is well known, as he has proven he can man mark the best the Premier League has to offer, while also able to lunge into challenges and win back possession. Herrera is also a workhorse with plenty of stamina, allowing him to go box to box for 90 minutes. He is also more than capable going forward, able to link up play in the midfield and pick out a killer pass. He’s also established himself as a prolific long shot taker, scoring some quality goals during his time at United.
United don’t have many other options, either. Fellaini has had injury problems as of late, having to come off after less than 20 minutes vs Spurs last week. Michael Carrick has only just made his first appearance of the season, and is still far off from starting big matches. Scott McTominay has been impressive when given the chance, but is still too young, and could drown if thrown into the deep end too early. Mourinho could try and stick to a 4-2-3-1, but that would only stunt Pogba.
Restoring Ander Herrera to the starting XI might just be the catalyst United needs to finish off the season strong.