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Ander Herrera celebrates

Our five favourite Ander Herrera moments

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Today marks four years since fan favourite Ander Herrera made the move to Manchester to join United from Athletic Bilbao.

The bustling midfielder quickly impressed Reds with his impassioned displays, and has already won three major trophies at the club – notably excelling in the 2017 UEFA Europa League final win over Ajax in Stockholm, after which he was named Man of the Match.
 
But was that Ander’s best contribution in the shirt? We’ve selected five of our favourite moments delivered by the boy from Biscay…
 
THE GOAL: YEOVIL AWAY, JANUARY 2015
 
Herrera scored twice in his first three matches for United, including a nice drive from the edge of the area on his home debut against Queens Park Rangers, but his next goal - away at Yeovil in the FA Cup – provided the first wow moment of his time at the club. The plucky hosts were less than half an hour away from earning a lucrative replay at Old Trafford when Ander swivelled on to a Darren Fletcher ball and unleashed a booming drive from 25 yards out high into the goal. The fans were even more pleased with the Spaniard’s celebration: he rushed towards the away end with his fists pumping maniacally, displaying enough passion to shame a Love Island contestant. 

Herrera's stunner at Yeovil TownVideo

THE PASS: CHELSEA AT HOME, APRIL 2017
 
Ander’s diligence and hard work are often complimented, but opponents overlook his vision and creative impulses at their peril. When United beat Chelsea 2-0 in April 2017, our no.21 was widely praised for his disciplined man-marking job on the Blues’ principal playmaking threat, Eden Hazard. But it was Herrera’s devastating pass to Marcus Rashford for our first goal that had the purists blushing.
 
The beauty of this pass is just how precisely and perfectly it is arced round Chelsea centre-back David Luiz. The Brazilian sees it all the way, and at one point steps towards the path of the ball because he thinks he can intercept it before it curves behind him and into Rashford's path. He makes the move, and immediately realises the game's up, and trudges off hopelessly in pursuit of the young Mancunian. Before he gets anywhere near, it’s 1-0 to United. And, while Rashford’s finish was calm and efficient, most of the credit goes to Ander.

Herrera's stunning assist for Rashford Video

THE SKILL: MANCHESTER CITY AWAY, APRIL 2018

As superb as Ander’s long passes can be, more often than not his job is to keep it simple in midfield and offer support with one or two-touch link-up play. Michael Carrick, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba have typically been the players you would see taking on the more dramatic long or cross-field passes.
 
Imagination and shrewdness will always find ways to reveal themselves, though, and Herrera is a master of the improvised touch or clever movement that can open up space where there appears to be none. One of the most recent examples was an incredible chested assist for Paul Pogba, in April’s Manchester derby. United had put together a decent move in front of City’s back line, but there were still six blue-shirted defenders between Herrera and the goal when Alexis Sanchez fired a cross towards his upper body. No problem. His quick-witted chest pass – and a smart anticipatory run from Pogba – took the entire City defence out of the equation, and had Vincent Kompany sprawling aimlessly. The result? The first goal in a sensational second-half comeback that thwarted some slightly premature jubilation on the part of our neighbours.
 
But that’s just one example of Herrera magic. He loves one trick that sees him lean one way and then chop the ball back in the opposite direction, thereby unbalancing his opponent, and also the quick shifting of the ball from one foot to the other. You can see examples of both in our Trickbox video below (keep an eye out for the bit where he sends Fernandinho sliding across the turf). 
 
Whisper it, but arguably one of his best moments in Manchester came while playing here in 2012 for his former team, Athletic Bilbao, when he flicked a marvellous looped pass that enabled team-mate Oscar de Marcos to fire past David De Gea. We’ll forgive you for that one, Ander…

Goals: City 2 United 3Video

When Herrera's silks helped us to sink CityVideo

THE INTELLIGENCE: EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL, MAY 2017
 
Surprisingly, not all professional footballers are completely in love with the world’s favourite sport. Billions of amateurs might tune in religiously to watch, night after night, but for some pros, it’s just a job; one they’ve been working solidly at for most of their lives. 
 
It’s fair to say Ander Herrera is not one of those people. Listen to almost any interview with the man and you can feel his love and fascination for the game searing through. A fan of Real Zaragoza – the team his father played for, and where he too began his career – he describes attending their 2004 Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid as one of the greatest moments of his life. 
 
That love has also made him a studious thinker about the game. At a coaching seminar last year, Jose Mourinho revealed that, during the 2017 Europa League final win over Ajax, Herrera made the decision to change the team’s plan at set pieces. It had been arranged that Henrikh Mkhitaryan would stand on the edge of the Ajax box for United corners, so that his pace could be used to defend against any quick Ajax counter-attacks. But, recognising that Mkhitaryan had already been booked and could be forced into making a foul to stop a counter, Herrera instructed the Armenian to head into the box into a goalscoring position, minimising the risk the Reds could be reduced to ten men. Herrera then adopted Mkhitaryan’s position at the edge of the box, and watched as the little attacking midfielder flicked home United’s second goal. Mourinho later raved to his fellow coaches about Ander’s foresight and maturity.
 
It’s the kind of in-game cleverness that fans would barely notice. But for managers, players and coaches, such little details can turn matches, and make or break careers.
Ander Herrera
Ander's Man-of-the-Match display in the 2017 Europa League final earned widespread acclaim.
THE WINNER: FA CUP SEMI-FINAL 2018
 
That kind of conscientiousness rarely make the headlines, and football’s biggest stars are usually the heroes who put the ball into the net most frequently. Or those who regularly star in YouTube compilations comprised of daring tricks and flicks. So it’s always nice when team players, who do the less glamorous work in defence or midfield, get their moments in the spotlight.
 
It’s why so many Reds were delighted to see Ander net the winner against Spurs at Wembley in this season’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final. Scoring at the country’s national stadium, in such a prestigious game, will have given a football obsessive like Herrera a big buzz. And he deserved it for a lung-busting, all-action display on the day, against a very industrious Tottenham midfield that rarely lacks desire or heart.

Herrera sinks SpursVideo

Ander’s celebration was characteristically both excitable and sensible. He ran to the corner flag, slid to his knees, but with a stern look on his face that let everyone know there was still plenty to do to ensure the game was won.
 
A super player, who plays with the brain of a professional and the heart of a fan, it’s little wonder he’s such a popular figure amongst Reds.

Congratulations on your four years at United, Ander – here’s to many more.

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