Ander Herrera has faced plenty of challenges in his career. Just two years ago, he was struggling to force his way into Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side, often playing out of position when he was selected. At the time, there were suggestions that he was considering his Old Trafford future but the player refuted those claims and insisted he would stay and fight for his place.
True to his word, the former Athletic Club midfielder stuck it out at United and was revitalized under Jose Mourinho, becoming a first team regular in the side that went on to enjoy League Cup and Europa League success. But with the arrival of Nemanja Matic, the 28-year-old has once again found himself having to watch on from the sidelines.
Matic has been excellent since making the £40m switch from Chelsea and currently looks undroppable. But with the Red Devils challenging on several fronts this term, Herrera knows that he will get his chance to prove his worth again. In fact, having already dismissed the summer advances of Barcelona, there is now talk of a new and improved contract on the table. What’s more, there will be games where Mourinho may decide to line up with both players in midfield.
The newly arrived Serbian’s form has come as no surprise. He has been superb for United but also for his country, who are currently top of their World Cup qualifying group. Back in September, he led a ten-man Serbian side to victory away to the Republic of Ireland – against many betting tipster’s predictions – a result that leaves the nation on the verge of qualification for next summer’s showpiece event.
Having two such talented players fighting for the same position is a luxury that few teams can boast but one that may be vital as United seek to regain their place among Europe’s elite. The club have struggled to finish in the top four since Alex Ferguson departed in 2013 and prior to their Europa League success, they have been notably absent from the European stage.
Mourinho’s men have made a bright start to the new Premier League campaign, maintaining pace with their city rivals and they currently sit top of their Champions League group having won both of their opening games.
Despite Herrera’s impressive performances last season, it was no surprise when the United gaffer jumped at the chance to add Matic to the ranks. The 29-year-old was an integral cog in the Chelsea machine that powered their way to the 2014/15 Premier League title and was one of Mourinho’s most trusted squad members.
The real surprise was not that United were interested in the Šabac-born player but that Chelsea were willing to let him go. He was a key player in last season’s Premier League title win, having perfectly adapted to Antonio Conte’s 3–4–3 formation. And he already seems to have made a difference at United where he has helped Paul Pogba to finally show why United parted with so much money for his services.