In a little above 90 days, the suspense surrounding Ander Herrera fizzled out. Its either the Basque native remained in Manchester or moved elsewhere. Eventually, Paris came calling, and it’s the best for all parties.
Herrera was out of contract at the end of the season. Talks over another have been ongoing since last summer and the club refused to meet his hefty wage demands. PSG were ready to pounce, conscious that he would be available on a free transfer - a relatively low-cost midfield option.
The Herrera impasse is another instance of how Alexis Sanchez’s exorbitant £500,000 a week deal has compromised the wage structure at Old Trafford. United were keen to hold on to the Spaniard yet reluctant to offer such a significant increase to a player who recently turned 30.
It’s a similar ugly cycle with Juan Mata. The ex-Chelsea midfielder, also a free agent in the summer, turned down the club’s one-year extension, before eventually agreeing to a new deal. Compatriot David de Gea is seeking parity with Sanchez too. The shot-stopper is reportedly seeking double his existing £240,000 a week deal but the club is yet to dance to his tune.
On the surface, selling Herrera appeared harsh. He had worked for an extension and certainly deserves it. His passion, love, spirit and energy for the game and Manchester United were clear to see. It was also a rare sight in modern day football.
Herrera arrived in England in 2014, barely a year after three imposters tried to sign him, claiming to represent Manchester United. But it was Louis Van Gaal who officially brought him to the club from Athletic Bilbao.
The passionate midfielder struggled to nail down a regular place under the Dutchman. He showed glimpses of his talent. It was as though Herrera hadn’t found his best position. Until Jose Mourinho came along.
Herrera started in six of 10 Premier League appearances with Mourinho this term but has failed to make United’s XI in only one of his nine leagues games under Solskjaer. The Spaniard wet the appetite with his strong performances over the last few months of the previous season.
His intensity in winning the ball back was integral to how Solskjaer wants United to play. The Bilbao-born midfielder matches the pressing done by the forward players to eventually force the opposition into a mistake – then the counter attack starts.
Yet ending his five-year spell at the club this summer was a shrewd move. Aside from his usual dedication, ability to read opponents, regaining possession and moving it on, Herrera doesn’t offer anything extra. He is simply good, not exceptional. He’s absolutely lovely, but he’s not world-class. He’s barely even great.
Ed Woodward is clearly regretting throwing that much cash on Sanchez. He’s striving to return to status quo. To erase the whole Sanchez debacle, United must start on a clean slate. The Chilean has finally been moved on, albeit on a preposterous loan deal to Inter Milan. Contract rebels too should follow.
PSG offers everything. Regular football, luxury and silverware. A long-term contract worth £150,000 per week at the Parc des Princes was tempting for a player now on the wrong side of 30. This is a litmus test for Herrera’s commitment.
The Parisians, meanwhile, had nothing to lose. The Spaniard is a cheap quality replacement for Adrien Rabiot. Although they had signed Leandro Paredes from Zenit St. Petersburg in January, but Herrera appealed to a club adamant on saving funds.
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