How Herrera describes his three United managers
Ander Herrera has positively described his three former Manchester United managers Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in fantastic – and typically unique – detail.
The Spaniard is the latest guest in our UTD Podcast series and his episode will be released in full at 17:00 GMT via the United App, ManUtd.com and MUTV.
Herrera wears his heart on his sleeve, and he speaks with complete honesty during our feature-length podcast, as you may have seen in the viral teaser clip showing Ander becoming emotional when recounting his United exit.
Over the course of our conversation, the 33-year-old speaks glowingly about his experiences playing for van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer at Old Trafford. It is fair to say his descriptions of all three are absolutely brilliant: so set aside some time, scroll down and devour his quotes on the managerial trio…
Ander praises his three United managers
Herrera positively describes Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer in his pod. As a heads up, there’s some playful language…
Our podcast was recorded just hours before the Netherlands played Argentina in a classic World Cup quarter-final in Qatar. As Herrera told us, he has loved seeing van Gaal back to his best following a period of ill health. “I am happy for him because he looks great,” said Ander. “He was ill, and he looks great.
“I think he is a great person. Even though he sometimes looks like a little bit… he wants to have that... how do you call the turtles, what they have? The shell [laughs]! Like a strong guy but after that there is a heart. So, the first time you see him, he is a strong guy and very serious.
“But after, he gets emotional very easily, he is a really good person and I am happy for him because he looks great, he looks happy and he is enjoying life. When I heard the news that he was ill, I expected something serious. He looks great, he is recovering and I am happy for him. I want to see him for a long time training and that will mean he is okay.”
On their time at United, Herrera continued: “Of course I learned a lot from him. I came from Marcelo Bielsa before joining United. I was with Bielsa and I was with Ernesto Valverde as well. Bielsa, overall, as a coach was very offensive and you all know from his time at Leeds. He wants the team to all the time be attacking and all of the players moving around. He doesn't want one player stopped.
“I went to van Gaal and that was offensive football, he wants to attack, but he wanted to play a positional game and more every player in his position. It was the ball that had to move from player to player and that was, at the beginning, difficult for me. He told me a few times, 'why do you move all the time?' and I was used to it. I had come from a couple of managers where it was the player who moves. But after a couple of months, I got used to it. We won the FA Cup, we qualified for the Champions League and I improved. I learned a lot from him. It was a couple of years with van Gaal and for me it was a good time.”
ON JOSE MOURINHO
After discussing his own game and how opposition fans often hated his win-at-all-costs attitude, which sometimes involved the so-called 'dark arts' of football, Herrera proceeded to describe Mourinho and joked that the Portuguese had a similar attitude. Warning: there is one moment of bad language…
“He is one of the greatest managers of all time,” said Ander. “One of the most successful managers of all time. He discovered a new position for me, he made me a more defensive midfielder. In the first season we won three trophies: the Community Shield, the Europa League and League Cup. And we qualified for the Champions League so it was a very successful season.
“I became an important player for him as well. He made me go to the national team as well. That was a key moment in my career. Also with him, I got the fans' Player of the Season award and I am so thankful about our time together. He was also a little bit shithouse [like me] as a coach so it was a good time [laughs]. It was a different football from van Gaal, from Bielsa, from Valverde. I liked it, I liked to be part of the team, to help the team. That was more counter-attack football, a counter-attack team, but after that, at the end of the season, we won three trophies and qualified for the Champions League. It is not bad.”
Asked about the moment Mourinho held three fingers in the air following our Europa League trophy lift in 2017, Herrera continued: “Yeah, because we won that title and I didn’t realise that was the third of the season, because the first one was too far away from that moment. But it is not easy. If you see at the end of the season, not too many clubs win three titles in one season. It was important overall because we were bringing a European trophy back, against Ajax, which is an important club in Europe, we qualify for the Champions League as well, we were going to play the European Super Cup as well. It was an important trophy and I think it was the last of the club as well. This year, I think it will be the year. They have to beat Barcelona in the next tie. I like the team, I like the coach.”
When the conversation turns to the much-loved Norwegian, Herrera has nothing but high praise and reveals the key role he played in a future transfer for the club.
“He is one of the best people I have met in football,” states Ander. “He was a legend but he was so humble to have a relationship with the players. He was always ready to listen to what you had to say to help the team. For his work at the club, he didn't have the credit he deserves, honestly, or he didn't have the success that he deserved, because he was doing a great job at the club.
“When I left, I thought that he was going to be the man because of what I was feeling, what I was smelling in the club. He tried to keep me at the club but the discussions were not with him, they were with the board at the time, but as I say before he is one of the best people I have met in football. After that I have kept in contact. When Cavani went to Manchester, I was with him in Paris [beforehand] and when I spoke with Ole I said 'you have to sign this guy, he is a player who is going to give everything for you, for the club, he is a Manchester United player'. And also Cavani, he had some options and I told him that there is no better option than United. It is true that the pandemic killed the Cavani moment because he was doing great before the pandemic. But I think he did good for the club and, yes, Ole, all the memories that I have with him, they are great.”
SUMMING UP THE THREE
“Very different managers. Van Gaal I can say, positional game coach, like a teacher sometimes for young players. Mourinho, a ****house coach [laughs]. It doesn't matter what you have to do to win, I just want to win, and we won. And Ole, a legend of the club. He believed so much in Sir Alex Ferguson’s philosophy and he wanted to bring that philosophy back to the club, but it was not easy. The players were different, the moment was different, football was different.
“I always say when people compare Sir Alex Ferguson with Manchester United coaches, we have to consider that when Sir Alex was at the club, Chelsea was a not a competitor for the club, Manchester City were not competitors, even Tottenham. They were not. So we have to realise that now the coaches are fighting against five or six teams to win trophies. Before, Sir Alex did amazing, but it was mostly Liverpool, Arsenal and United fighting for the trophies. So it is not easy for Ten Hag now to fight Tottenham, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Arsenal and even Newcastle now. It is tough to be a Manchester United coach. Maybe one day I am, but it is not easy.”
A reminder that Herrera’s UTD Podcast will be released in full at 17:00 GMT on Monday, in both audio and video. It will be exclusively available via the United App, ManUtd.com and MUTV for the first 24 hours, before it then released externally via the usual podcast providers.