The Big Interview: Herrera plans to keep fighting
He made his return from injury in the 2-0 win over Swansea City on Saturday and Ander Herrera also spoke to United Review, the official matchday programme, ahead of the match as he reflected on recent results, discussed fellow midfielders Michael Carrick and Scott McTominay and revealed his targets for the remainder of the season...
Apart from the disappointment against Sevilla, things have gone well over the last few weeks with great wins over Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Liverpool, and we’ve booked ourselves an FA Cup semi-final place…
Yes, overall Chelsea and Liverpool were two very tough games which were going to be key for the top four. We won both games and we deserved both victories. Maybe we are not giving all the value to these victories because of what happened against Sevilla, which I feel very disappointed about because we had all the expectations and hopes in the Champions League. All we can do now is look forward, make sure we keep hold of the second place and fight for the FA Cup. It’s a very important competition in this country and in the world, and if I’m not wrong it’s the first ever competition in the history of football so it’s very important for us.
We've maintained a strong position in the table – what’s the key to maintaining that momentum with just a few games left now?
I think the home games will be key. If we get the victories at home we will for sure be in the top four, but it’s not enough for us. We want to finish in the position we’re in and also I think it will be a good way for us to prepare for next season. If we finish second we can then look to build on that. So that’s what we are thinking now – try to win every game and finish second and then fight for the FA Cup. If we win the next few games in the league we will face the semi-final with more confidence.
Important games remain in the league, but that FA Cup semi-final is in the back of everyone’s minds – are you looking forward to a return to Wembley?
Of course. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against in the FA Cup semi-final it’s special. No one team is going to beat the other easily and we know that often semi-finals and finals can be won by teams in the last minutes of the games. It was the same in the League Cup final last season when we won in the last few minutes and also in our FA Cup semi-final against Everton [in 2016] when Anthony Martial scored [the winner] and the final against Crystal Palace when Jesse [Lingard] scored in extra-time. So we know what we are going to face at Wembley, it won’t be easy and we will really need to fight against a very good team.
What are your memories of that semi-final victory over Everton?
I remember that we deserved to be winning by more than one goal in the first half. We weren’t and they equalised and then they missed a penalty - David saved it from [Romelu] Lukaku. I remember I came on and the game was crazy, back and forth, side to side and I remember the pass to Anthony. A funny moment was when I did that tackle [on Ross Barkley] and the fans named it tackle of the season because it was a very dangerous counter-attack against us!
You know how it feels to win the competition – it’s a special trophy isn’t it?
Yes of course. I think we have one less than Arsenal – they have 13 and we have 12 so it’s very important for us to win the competition and we have a 25% possibility at the moment.
Scott McTominay has been given his chance to shine this season – how impressed have you been with him?
I knew when I saw him training with us that he was a very competitive guy and that he wants to help the team and he wants to learn every day. He’s going to be a good player for the club. He’s a team player and he can help in any position you put him. You saw against Chelsea he was a little more defensive and almost doing the job I did against [Eden] Hazard last season, not exactly the same but similar. He can be more offensive as well and he presses a lot. We know we’re not going to have Michael Carrick after this season so we need to add more midfielders to the team and I think Scott is really ready to play in the Premier League and help the team.
Other players have said he’s very willing to listen…
Yes he always, as we say in Spanish, has his ears open to listen and to learn because he really wants to be a Manchester United player, not only for 10 or 15 games, he wants a long career at this club and he has the qualities to do it.
Michael Carrick will retire in May – how would you sum up his contribution to United and what’s it been like to play alongside him?
I have no words to describe him… I feel almost a little bit embarrassed to talk about him because he is simply a legend. He has done everything for the club and not only is he very calm on the pitch, he’s also very relaxed off it too. He knows how to act in every moment – in the good moments and bad moments. He’s always very humble and very balanced. I’m so happy to have played with him for four years and I wish him all the best.
Personally, what are your aims for the remaining games?
Just to help the team as always. I haven’t had any injuries for the last two years but I’ve now been out for a few weeks and, as I say to my girlfriend, I am a very bad patient! I want to play, I want to be ready, I want to be available for the manager and for the team. I have already played more than 150 games for this club and I want to keep adding games and trying to play as well as possible because one day when I retire from football I will say I had the chance to play for the greatest club in England and I want to enjoy every moment, not only the matches but also at the training ground. The first thing to be able to do that is to be fit and that’s why I am so happy to be back with the team.
Earlier this year, you marked your 150th game for the club with a goal in the FA Cup win at Yeovil Town. How proud a night was that for you?
I really like FA Cup games against lower teams away. They’re difficult games, everyone expects you to win, but when you go to these grounds you find really passionate teams and really passionate fans. I really like that kind of old-school football and the history you have at those stadiums. I was really happy to make my 150th appearance in that game and to score to help us win it. There have been some great memories in those 150 games. The Europa League final of course - a European trophy is something I was determined to win for a long time. My debut, which was against Swansea, Liverpool away when we won 2-1 and Juan [Mata] scored both goals. I couldn’t choose just one game… [Manchester] City at home when we beat them 4-2, I have a lot in my memory. The time has gone quickly but I must say that I look back on it and know I have enjoyed every moment and that’s what I wanted to do when I joined the club. And I always try to give my best in every training session and every game whenever I put the United kit on.
What's the biggest thing you've learnt during those games?
The biggest thing I've learnt is how difficult it is to play for the biggest club in England and one of the biggest in the world. Everyone expects you to win and when you don’t the people who aren’t United fans they talk so much about you and they love to see you lose. But that’s fine, that shows how big we are. We don’t think about the others, they think about us and that says everything.